Dynamic December: Ponaganset girls jump out to solid 5-2 start

Dynamic December: Ponaganset girls jump out to solid 5-2 start

Ponaganset High senior guard and co-captain Jillian DelPrete, shown racing down the court with the ball during last week’s game against North Providence High, has averaged 14.3 points per game in the Chieftains’ first six contests of the season. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Chieftains (3-0 in D-II) return to league play after going 1-1 at Smithfield tourney

SMITHFIELD – After starting its Division II-North season with a 3-0 record, the Ponaganset High girls’ basketball team participated in last week’s Smithfield Holiday Classic at Smithfield High and came away with mixed results.

On Dec. 17, the Chieftains, who played in the tournament’s White Division, took it to a former league rival, Division III North Providence, 39-26, but two nights later, they suffered a 49-31 loss in the division’s championship game to King Philip Regional of Wrentham, Mass.

In the win over NP, the Chieftains weren’t able to put the ball in the net as much as they wanted to, but they still had seven players contribute to the scoring. Senior forward Olivia Campanella led the way with nine points, despite leaving the game in the second half after falling and hitting her head. She did not play in last Thursday’s game against K.P.

“We struggled a little bit,” Ponaganset head coach Gary Martinelli said after last Tuesday’s win. “We had a difficult practice yesterday after having the Christmas vacation, so we didn’t play to our capabilities. We have a lot of frustrated girls; after the game, they looked like they lost, but we won and they’ll learn from it.”

Their leading scorer on most nights, senior guard Jillian DelPrete, only scored seven points, but she has averaged 14.3 points in Ponaganset’s first six games. DelPrete shares the captain’s role with senior Sydney Pezza-Luther, who is a 5-foot-11 forward and center.

Martinelli said that his seniors, a group that includes forwards Lydia Cook and Kelsey Sousa and guard Sarah Charbonneau, have all been leaders.

“My seniors have done a really good job,” Martinelli said. “Right now, we’re getting help from kids like (junior) Mackenzie Doyle, so we’re playing nine kids. We played a couple more kids (in the game against NP), but they’re young and they will learn.”

The Chieftains have a mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen, and two sophomores who played well in the win over the Cougars, according to Martinelli, were Shelby Kosiver and Grace Wells-Danenfeiser.

“Most of this team was on varsity last year,” added Martinelli, who also highlighted his assistant coaches, David Sevegny, Lynn Richardson, and Jim Field. “Out of the 11 girls that were here (in the game against NP), probably nine of them played last year.”

The Chieftains reside in the North with Johnston, Scituate, Mount St. Charles, Woonsocket, Classical, Juanita Sanchez, Lincoln, and Tolman. Johnston and Scituate headed into the holiday break with 2-0 league records.

Martinelli said that there are a lot of good teams in Division II as a whole. They will face Central and Pilgrim this week, and Martinelli, who saw Pilgrim play, came away impressed. He also said that Westerly is new to the league, but “won’t be afraid of anyone.”

Overall, Martinelli hopes his team can be a contender this winter, especially since the Chieftains totaled just 11 league victories over the past two seasons since moving down from Division I.

“I expect us to be one of the better D-II teams,” he said. “It’s a lot to put on them, but I told them early in the year that that’s where I was going to put our name, to make sure our expectations are high. And we didn’t set them low, we set them high, so we’ll see what happens.”

The Chieftains came into this week with a 5-2 record, which includes a 1-1 mark in their season-opening Pink Madness Tournament (Ponaganset downed Division III Burrillville on Dec. 10, 43-22, and lost to D-I Smithfield on Dec. 11, 64-61).

The Chieftains’ finale against King Philip, which plays in the Hockomock League, arguably the toughest league in southeastern Massachusetts, saw Ponaganset score the game’s first six points and take a 15-10 lead, but the Warriors grab the lead with an 11-0 run that helped them head into the half with a 22-19 lead.

DelPrete, who led the Chieftains with 13 points, got the lead back for Ponaganset by opening the second half with back-to-back jumpers, but King Philip took the lead back for good by scoring the next nine points.

The Chieftains, who returned to their division schedule on Tuesday afternoon by playing Central at the Providence Career & Technical Academy, will host Pilgrim on Friday at 7 p.m.

Ponaganset senior forward Lydia Cook, #5, is surrounded by North Providence players in the paint as she passes the ball to an open teammate – and out of the reach of NP guard Stephanie Saucier, right – during last week’s Smithfield Holiday Classic game. The Chieftains improved their overall record to 5-1 by posting a 39-26 victory.