NORTH SMITHFIELD — After the final seconds ticked off the clock in Davies’ battle with North Smithfield on Tuesday afternoon – a hard-fought clash from the opening tap to the final buzzer – Patriots coach Joe Handy took one last glance at the scoreboard on the other end of his gym and let out a sigh of relief.
The Patriots won a 42-39 nailbiter with the rival Northmen that could have easily went the other way. Davies saw an 11-point lead slip away, turned the ball over 27 times, and fell victim to an excellent game by N.S. point guard Keila Strick, but the Patriots made some big shots and key plays near the end of the game to pull out the ‘W’.
“This was huge,” said Handy, who saw his team, which was playing its first game in 11 days, hike its overall record to 4-2 and Division III-North mark to 2-1. “I’m very happy with today’s win. At this time of the season, against a really good team – they have nine seniors – this (win) is fantastic for us.
While the win was fantastic for the Patriots, the loss was the complete opposite for the Northmen, who fell to 1-3 in the league (2-5 overall). They trailed by as many as 11 (15-14) midway through the first half before slowly coming back and seizing their first lead of the day (28-26) with 10:32 to play in the contest on a jumper by Jaime LaFazia.
With 5:53 to play, the Northmen owned a 34-30 lead, thanks to back-to-back layups by Strick, and just when it looked like the visitors had a strong grip on the momentum, the Patriots struck back.
Fifteen seconds after Strick’s last layup, Jackie Sequen buried a three-pointer to cut the hosts’ deficit to a point, and with 4:10 to play, Rosaliz Torres gave Davies the lead with a three-pointer of her own.
The Northmen soon retied the score on a tough layup by Samantha Kent with 2:24 left, and after both teams committed turnovers, Tara Larson gave N.S. its final lead with 1:34 to go by sinking the first of two free throws.
Again, both teams turned the ball over on their next possessions, and again, the Patriots took back the lead -- this time for good -- on a pair of free throws by Kaitlin Flynn with 1:14 on the clock.
A layup by Flynn with 47 seconds left then gave the Patriots a three-point cushion, but a layup by DiFazia with :31.2 on the clock again made it a one-point contest.
But seconds later, the Northmen got tagged with an untimely technical foul that seemed to take the wind out of their sails. During a scramble for a loose ball on the floor, one of their players tried to call a time-out, but the team didn’t have any left.
Flynn went to the line and nailed the first of her two shots, and after the Northmen were unable to score the tying basket on their ensuing possession, the Pats got the ball back, and with 13.1 seconds left, Waleska Kelly hit the first of two free throws. The Northmen were unable to launch a game-tying, three-point shot in the remaining seconds.
“It came down to a bunch of key mistakes at the end, and that’s what cost us the game,” added N.S. coach David Ruff, whose team committed just 17 turnovers, but four in the final 2:01. “The ref came over to us during our (last) time out and said that we had no more time outs. Unfortunately, the girls weren’t listening.”
The Pats, whose program contains mostly sophomores and freshmen, received balanced scoring from four of its older players, starting with Kelly, a junior power forward who produced 13 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.
Flynn and Torres, both senior guards, and Sequen, a junior forward, each tossed in eight points, with Torres also shining defensively with six steals and Flynn contributing seven assists and four thefts.
“I have a lot of young players and just three returning starters,” said Handy. “Right now, we’re just taking baby steps, but going down the stretch, I think we’re going to grow a little bit.”
The Northmen received a great game from Strick, a hustling senior point guard, who not only poured in a contest-high 19 points, a dozen coming in the second half, but also had six steals. Kent had a solid double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, and LaFazia handed out six assists and added five steals.