JOHNSTON -- Before setting its sights on Friday’s big battle with undefeated Moses Brown, Burrillville had to deal with a pesky Johnston team determined to climb its way up the Division II-North standings.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, they didn’t deal with their hosts very well, and as a result, they turned in one of their worst performances of the season.
The Broncos turned the ball over 32 times and scored just seven points in the final 8:57 of their Wednesday night contest against the Panthers and ended up on the short end of a 51-36 score.
The visitors, who were playing their first game in nine nights, certainly looked like a club trying to shake off some rust, and that layoff wasn’t lost upon head coach Lindsay Rachlow when she talked about her team’s play afterwards.
“I had a feeling we were going to come out flat-footed,” she offered. “I think we took (Johnston) too lightly. We turned the ball over, we didn’t protect, we didn’t get the ball to our (big players), and we didn’t shoot well from the free-throw line. We just didn’t do much tonight.”
The defeat drops the third-place Broncos to 4-2 in the division and widens the gap between them and second-place Classical (6-2) in the standings. Johnston improves to 4-3 and is one of three teams in the league with three losses.
The opening half was not a thing of beauty for the Broncos, who turned the ball over 18 times, yet found themselves down by just a point (21-20) at the break after Johnston’s Karina Mattera (game-high 18 points) swished a three-pointer from the top of the key with two seconds on the clock.
The Broncos actually led for a good chunk of the first half, thanks in part to a nine-point run that gave them a 13-6 lead with 7:49 on the clock and forced the Panthers to burn a time-out.
But when play resumed, Johnston responded with eight straight points to take the lead with less than three minutes to go, and the rest of the half turned into a seesaw affair until Mattera bagged her three-point shot.
The Broncos never led in the second half, as Lauren Barnes threw in a pair of layups in the opening minute to give the Panthers a comfortable lead.
With 8:57 to play, the Broncos trailed by eight (37-29), and things went from bad to worse at that point. Not only were they unable to score from the floor during the next seven-plus minutes, but they had eight of their 14 turnovers in the half during this stretch.
“We’ve been averaging 25 turnovers a game and we’ve been winning,” said Rachlow. “But sooner or later, the turnovers are going to catch up with you.”
Sophomore forward Victoria Libby had a double-double to lead the Broncos’ attack, as she totaled 10 points and 11 rebounds. Junior forward Ashley Spear also tossed in 10 points, and junior center Emma Lapierre added eight points and 11 rebounds.
Defensively, the Broncos, who have been strong in this department all season long, played well for most of the night and had a large say in the 24 turnovers by their hosts. Juniors Danielle Dumais and Alyssa Lemire each came up with four steals.
The Broncos will host Friday’s showdown with the Quakers at 7 p.m. at the Broncodome, and the following Monday night, they will welcome Tolman to town.
BURRILLVILLE (36): Danielle Dumais 0 1-5 1, Liz Diohep 0 1-2 1, Alyssa Lemire 3 0-0 6, Victoria Libby 4 2-5 10, Emma Lapierre 4 0-0 8, Ashley Spear 2 6-10 10, Anna Dumais 0 0-0 0, Shannon Murphy 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 10-22 36.
JOHNSTON (51): Isabella DiRaimo 6 2-2 14, Lauren Barnes 2 0-0 4, Danielle Gawlik 1 0-0 2, Ashley Peterson 1 0-0 2, Madison Mansolillo 2 2-4 6, Karina Mattera 7 3-3 18, Alex DiRaimo 0 0-2 0, Francesca Gaudiana 1 1-2 3, Brianna Ruggiero 0 0-0 0, Sara DeSalvo 1 0-0 2, Ariana Caffeso 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 8 1-3 51.
Halftime: Johnston, 21-20. Three-point field goals: Johnston 1 (Mattera).