PROVIDENCE — George Coderre knows the drill. As the head coach at Woonsocket High, Coderre studies the game from his sideline perch while his mind races with various adjustment schemes. Obviously the idea is to outsmart the opposition, which Coderre’s club was able to do for most of Sunday’s playoff exercise against Westerly High.
Eventually the Bulldogs were able to decipher what was a pretty effective zone defense thrown their way by the North No. 2-seeded Villa Novans, delivering the type of counter punch that enabled Westerly, the South’s third seed, to eliminate Woonsocket in the Division I quarterfinals, 41-33.
“We expected them to go man-to-man but when they went zone, we kind of got off track,” noted Westerly junior Emily Dobson, the game’s high scorer with 22 points.
Stated Coderre, “We knew the matchups were going to be very difficult for us. We’re just way too small to match up with that kind of team. We wanted to show it (zone defense) early and see how far we could go. They posted us up three or four times that we were able to get away with.
“After a while we decided that they’re probably not going to hit the outside shot,” Coderre went on. “They’re going to concentrate so much on going inside and to our credit it worked. We completely took them out of what they wanted to do.”
Rarely was Westerly able to penetrate Woonsocket’s zone, a development that as Coderre noted allowed his team to remain faithful to with what was working. The Bulldogs shot just 7-of-25 from the field in the opening half with Dobson responsible for all but four of Westerly’s halftime team total of 14 points.
Westerly regrouped, though, and opened the second half with a 15-6 run. Dobson scored eight straight points to cap the surge and give the Bulldogs a 29-23 lead that they would not relinquish. On the flip side, Woonsocket began the second 16-minute stanza ice cold, hitting just 3-of-13 shots.
“To me the key was the start of the second half. We had five consecutive excellent shots inside of 15 feet and didn’t hit any of them,” Coderre said. “They just didn’t go down.”
Dobson carried her team for much of the way before the cavalry arrived late, enabling the Bulldogs to advance to the Division I semis. That game is set for Wednesday night against either La Salle or Smithfield. The Rams and Sentinels were the late game on Sunday evening.
The score read 33-29 in favor of the Bulldogs when Ashley LeClair converted a layup off a Woonsocket turnover with Madison-Sean McLaughlin following with a jumper that sank the Villa Novans into an eight-point hole with 2:40 remaining. A pair of free throws enabled Woonsocket to pull within six (39-33) with 28 seconds left before Westerly closed things out with two makes from the line.
Michelle Brayboy and her 14 points led Woonsocket. Playing in her final varsity game, the senior was instrumental in rallying the Novans from a 12-7 deficit. She made both of her 3-point makes count, the first coming with 1:20 left in the opening half to tie the game at 12-12.
Just before the halftime horn sounded, Brayboy netted a perfect shot from behind the stripe to make it a 17-14 game in favor of the Novans.
“They had (Kailey) Fugere and Brayboy where they kept setting those pick-and-rolls and we kept getting stuck,” Dobson said. “(Brayboy) nailed those threes in our eyes and we couldn’t stop that.”
Woonsocket shot just 6-of-21 in the opening half. However the Villa Novans were able to close out on a high note with four straight makes.
“Sometimes the pace of the game reaches a point where you’re open more than what you expect,” said Coderre. “We had good shots. We just didn’t hit them.”
Before departing Rhode Island College, Coderre was asked to talk about his collection of seniors, Allyson Cartier and Caitlyn Marcoux along with Brayboy and Fugere. It’s a group that tasted plenty of success, from being part of a Division II championship as freshmen to copping a state title as sophomores to ending their high school careers with back-to-back Division I quarterfinal-round appearances.
“I told them I’m as proud of them as any of the teams we’ve had,” Coderre. “I just thought they did a great job of giving everything they possibly had.”