Ten months later, SRA girls' hoop team returns to action

Ten months later, SRA girls' hoop team returns to action

St. Raphael Academy senior guard Elizabeth Bruno, shown in action during a game last February against North Kingstown High, will run the point and serve as one of the Saints’ captains this season. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Saints put unfinished season in rearview mirror, hope to begin play next Wednesday against Juanita Sanchez

PAWTUCKET – After posting an overall record of 22-2 and winning the Division I-C regular-season championship last winter, the St. Raphael Academy girls’ basketball team never stepped onto the court for the ensuing Division I playoffs or Open Tournament

That’s because SRA was the first school in the state that was affected by the pandemic, and when presumptive COVID-19 cases popped up around the school, some of the Saints’ players had to quarantine. As a result, the Saints were unable to play in the postseason, and on March 13, the Open Tournament was canceled after the opening round.

Ten long months later, the Saints are finally back in the gym. Their first workouts was on Jan. 4, but they won’t know what to expect from one day to another. Schedules are still not finalized, and the start times for games have been moved back.

“Practices are different,” SRA head coach Tammy Drape said, highlighting the new practice of wearing masks during practices and games. “But we’re having a good time. I’m just trying to keep everyone informed and educated.”

Practices are indeed different, as there is the social distancing aspect, health screenings before practices, and the sanitizing of everything. Drape said they are constantly wiping down the equipment and washing their own hands, and once their practice is finished, the entire team has to fully vacate the gym before any other team can enter it.

The Saints only graduated one senior last year, Paige O’Brien, but junior point guard Tatum Forbes, who was a Second Team All-State selection, transferred to a prep school, St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass., during the offseason.

“I knew it was a possibility,” Drape said about Forbes leaving. “It was a good decision for her. She’s a great kid and I want what’s best for her. I was completely in awe of her last year and her maturity.”

While the overall numbers on her team are down, Drape has six returning players from last year. One of them, senior Elizabeth Bruno, will take over Forbes’ role at point guard.

“She is a great student athlete and is excited for her new role,” Drape said.

Senior center Amaya Dowdy is the Saints’ top player. A two-time First-Team All-State selection who will continue her basketball career at UMass-Lowell after she graduates, Dowdy averaged 15.5 points, eight rebounds, 3 1/2 blocks, and three steals per game and reached the 1,000-point mark in her career midway through the season.

Dowdy, Bruno, and another returning senior, guard Chloe Rayko, are the Saints’ captains this winter. They will lead the way and try to finish what they started last year.

“The girls want a championship,” Drape said. “For me, I would love that, but just to see the girls go out and compete, I’ll be happy.”

Once schedules are finalized and teams get the green light to officially start their seasons, each one will play nine games. Drape said they are allowed to schedule non-league games, but she might not do so to ensure her team’s health and safety. Even with just nine games, Drape said she does not know what to expect from the competition, as they don’t know which players are coming back, who opted out, and what teams will look like.

Drape said everyone went through their own stages of grief last year after the way their season ended. They were able to see each other and practice over the summer once venues started to reopen, but some players have opted not to play, erring on the side of caution.

Nevertheless, Drape has continued to tell her team each day to come into the gym and work hard, as it is a shortened season and no one know what is in store in the future.

“We take things one day at a time,” she said.

The Saints are tentatively scheduled to open their season next Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Juanita Sanchez, and in the meantime, “we are doing the little things to increase our chances to compete,” Drape said.

Senior center and tri-captain Amaya Dowdy averaged 15.5 points and eight rebounds per game last season.