Basketball seasons end for Lady Sentinels, Chieftains

Basketball seasons end for Lady Sentinels, Chieftains

In the girls high school basketball Division I preliminary playoff round, Smithfield made things interesting, coming all the way back from a disastrous first half, down by double figures, to defeat Cranston West, 40-38, last week, but their season ended in their next game as top-seeded Bay View Academy handed them a 56-40 setback.

"We made things interesting right from the beginning," Smithfield head coach Robert Comella said. "We couldn't put the ball in the basket in the first half but I thought our defense was decent. I told the girls at half-time there was no way to play any worse. And in the second half we picked it up (despite) getting into foul trouble."

Everything was going against the Lady Sentinels until the last seven minutes of the game when the momentum took a turn.

"Everything from turnovers, bad passes and bad shots," Comella said about what was going against his team. "We had about seven minutes of things going our way and getting the ball in the basket."

With 5:23 left on the clock, Jamie Banspach took a pass from Amber DeCristofaro and took her shot from behind the arc sinking the three and tying the score 36-36.

After everything the Lady Falcons had done, their lead was suddenly gone and they got too excited as Erin Blake overthrew Gabrielle Sayaf, which was the theme of the night - turnovers.

The physicality of the game was already high, and it went up higher as the Smithfield crowd became more fully invested in this intense match up. But as the physicality went up so did the fouls. Juliana Romeo was fouled with 3:07 left and went to the line to shoot two. She only hit her first shot but gave the Sentinels the 37-36 lead.

After a few more turnovers, Falcons' Courtney Lambrese stole the ball from DeCristofaro and went down for a fast break layup and gave Cranston West the lead. The ball was quickly passed in to DeCristofaro, who wasted not time sinking her layup to take the 39-38 lead with just 1:54 remaining.

"Amber DeCristofaro really picked it up on offense and defense," Comella said. "She was up and down the floor and made some good shots. Sondra Bouchard, a sophomore, stepped up when we were in foul trouble and played some good minutes in the first."

The Sentinel defense continued to be on point as the Falcons were not able to get close to the hoop. And as the clock ticked down to a minute remaining the Sentinels tried to hold onto the ball but the Falcons had other plans, fouling DeCristofaro. She missed both free throws but the Sentinel defense kept the Falcons off the board. On Lambrese's missed attempt Bouchard got the rebound.

Smithfield took a timeout with 15.5 seconds remaining. Knowing they would be fouled, the ball was passed into Rachel Balcom but she missed her first attempt at the line.

As tensions rose, Balcom forced a misplay on the Falcons as the ball went out of bounds and Smithfield regained possession. Again Balcom was immediately fouled. This time she made her first shot making it harder for the Falcons to take the lead with 9.4 seconds left. With the score 40-38, the Sentinels were aggressive on defense which paid off as Romeo got the steal and held on as the buzzer sounded giving Smithfield the win.

"It was a good team effort," Comella said. "They could have put their heads down and quit in the first but they didn't."

The one thing that went their way in the first was the first basket. Banspach got a pass from Balcom and put it up for the 2-0 lead. That was the only lead the Sentinels would see in the first half. Lauren Hindley put Smithfield at four points while the Falcons went on quite the run taking the 19-4 advantage. The Sentinels made up some of the deficit only trailing by five points at half-time, 21-16, and then turned it on in the second.

DeCristofaro had a good night on offense scoring 16 points for Smithfield while both Banspach and Hindley scored eight.

The Lady Sentinels enjoyed their win until two nights later when they took on Bay View. Smithfield kept the game relatively close in the first half and trailed 27-20, but the tall and talented girls from East Providence pulled away in the second half, ending Smithfield's season.

Romeo led the Lady Sentinels with 13 points, while Hindley added a dozen, and Balcom, eight.

It was no contest as Ponaganset took on first place La Salle Academy in the first round of the playoffs as the Rams posted an easy 69-31 win, ending the Lady Chieftains' season.