WOONSOCKET – On a night in which she was honored for scoring her 1,000 career point earlier this season, senior Kailey Fugere and the rest of her Woonsocket High teammates cooled off a resurging St. Raphael Academy program Friday night with a 41-36 decision at Savaria Gymnasium.
Fugere, who was recognized for her milestone during a halftime ceremony, finished with 17 points. The game was hardly the Villa Novans best effort, however, as St. Ray’s overcame a 14-point deficit before the break and made their host sweat it out until the final buzzer.
But it was still a win for the Villa Novans, their fifth straight to improve their record to 8-4 in Division I-North.
“They outplayed us thoroughly in the second half,” said Woonsocket coach George Coderre. “We had just enough at the end, but I was disappointed with our lack of poise. Maybe it’s just the distractions of the night. Fortunately we had enough poise at the end (to win). I thought St. Ray’s played extremely well tonight.”
The setback is the first for the Saints in their last five league games and drops their record to an even 5-5. But against a quality Woonsocket team, SRA head coach Fred Saunders was certainly not disappointed in his team’s effort, especially considering the large hole it had to climb out of entering the second half.
“I was extremely proud of my kids,” he said. “We came in at the half and I told them we just got to work hard at it. There was a good resolve I saw on my team. I thought if we displayed a better second half it would be interesting. And it turned out to be that way.”
Woonsocket took command in the first half. The Villa Novans quickly jumped to an 8-3 lead in the first four minutes of the game and held a 14-11 advantage with about five minutes remaining.
In a quick, three-minute span, Woonsocket scored 10 straight points to extend its lead to 13, beginning with a putback from senior Allyson Cartier (eight points, six rebounds) and a 3-pointer from junior Michelle Brayboy (eight points, four assists, three steals).
Woonsocket went into halftime with what looked like a comfortable 26-12 lead.
But the second half was a different story as the Saints’ suffocating defense started to create havoc for the Villa Novans, who often looked frazzled by their opponents’ aggressiveness.
The Saints chopped the Villa Novans’ lead to five points, at 30-25, after back-to-back layups from sophomore Kelsy Lynch (eight points). After a 3-pointer from junior Crista Thomas (eight points) with 3:36 left on the clock, the Saints were within three (37-34).
Woonsocket was able to secure the triumph down the stretch with a putback from Fugere at the left wing and a pair of clutch free throws from Brayboy with 20.1 ticks left.
Woonsocket has two big games on the horizon. On Thursday it faces second-place Barrington and on Feb. 7 it matches up against unbeaten Bay View Academy.
“It’s good when you can win when you didn’t play particularly well,” Coderre said. “You come out of that feeling okay. But now we have to regroup because we have Barrington next Thursday. We are going to their place and that is always a big, big challenge.”
The Saints also face Barrington in their next contest, hosting the Eagles on Tuesday.
“We are just young,” Saunders said. “They are trying to learn the system. We started off the year too slow, but we are just starting to pick up and I feel good at where we are. There is still a long way until the end of the season. I think we are going to make a good run towards playoffs.”
SAINTS (36) – Lauren Gaj 2 1-2 5, Becca Gonzalez 1 0-0 2, Kelsy Lynch 4 0-2 8, Emily Millar 3 2-5 9, Oluwaseun Shittu 1 0-0 2, Christa Thomas 3 0-0 8. Totals – 14 3-9 36
WOONSOCKET (41) – Michelle Brayboy 2 3-4 8, Allyson Cartier 4 0-0 8, Kailey Fugere 6 5-6 17, Katie Marcoux 2 2-2 6, Shade Olowookere 0 0-1 0, Amanda Sloan 1 0-0 2. Totals – 15 10-13 41
Halftime – W, 26-12. 3-point goals – SRA (3); Millar, Thomas 2. W (1): Brayboy.