WOONSOCKET – On most nights, Woonsocket High relies on its offense to get the job done.
In Friday’s night’s Division I showdown with Ponaganset, it was the defense that made the difference.
With an effective man-to-man defense that it utilized from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer, the Villa Novans earned their third straight victory with a 35-29 verdict over the Chieftains at Savaria Gymnasium.
“I thought we did some things very, very well, but I thought our defense was excellent,” said Woonsocket coach George Coderre. “They hit two or three (3-pointers) in the game, but they were having trouble getting any other shot.”
Woonsocket, which upped its record to 6-4 in the division, was led by 13 points and 10 rebounds from senior Kailey Fugere. Junior teammate Michelle Brayboy had an off night with her offense with just seven points, but she was up for the task on limiting the Chieftains’ high-scoring sophomore Chandler Williams to 13 points, five below her average.
“Michelle was way off on her shooting, but that’s okay,” Coderre said. “She did a terrific job against Chandler. She’s an excellent shooter, an excellent ballplayer. She really limited the good looks that Chandler had.”
Woonsocket took command in the opening half, bolting to a 10-3 lead in the game’s first five minutes. The Villa Novans effectively used the pick-and-roll during the opening stretch with Fugere the beneficiary of most of the shots with eight points.
After a putback by the Chieftains’ Liz Coburn whittled the deficit to seven points (18-11), Woonsocket managed to go into the locker room with a double-digit lead, scoring twice in the final 30 seconds. Senior Katie Marcoux hit a pull-up jumper from about 10 feet and then Brayboy stole a Chieftain pass and went coast-to-coast with a layup with less than 20 ticks remaining.
“That was huge,” said Coderre, about Brayboy’s steal. “It gave us an 11-point lead and it really kind of gave us a little bit of breathing room there. I was glad we played right to the horn in the first half, and it paid off with a couple of hoops just before the half.”
Ponaganset, which fell to 3-6 with the setback, didn’t make it easy for Woonsocket in the second half. The Chieftains managed to get within single digits of the Novans by the midway point, but Woonsocket was able to stave off any comeback in the closing minutes with Fugere hitting a key bucket underneath to give her teammates a 34-24 lead with 3:34 on the clock. Fugere and Brayboy each netted a free throw during the final minute to secure the win.
“We got a little bit sloppy at times in our decision making,” admitted Coderre, about the second half. “We got up eight or 10, we made a couple of sloppy decisions and they cut it to eight or six. We weren’t able to pull away. We just could have made better choices, several times when we had a 10-point lead. We could have had a chance to expand it.”
Woonsocket returns to the court on Tuesday when it travels to Smithfield. Ponaganset will face two tough opponents when it plays second-place Barrington on Wednesday and first-place and unbeaten Bay View Academy on Friday.