SCITUATE – Down a few players and coaches, the undefeated Ponaganset High girls’ basketball team used its speed and scoring ability to dominate neighboring Scituate, 72-43, on Monday night in their Division I meeting on the Spartans’ court.
The Chieftains only dressed eight players for this matchup, but all of them contributed to the scoring and three scored in double digits. Junior guard Julia Castelli led everyone with 21 points, sophomore guard Jaina Yekelchik added 14, and her classmate, Ella Pierre-Louis, had 13. Also each adding nine points were seniors Campbell Boyden and Jessica Hassell.
“It’s a good rival,” Ponaganset assistant coach Jim Field said about Scituate. “We know that they’re going to play hard. And they didn’t quit – even down more than 20 – the whole game. They just kept battling.”
“We just wanted to stay tough and still play our game,” he added. “We play fast, we share the ball, and we shoot a lot of threes, but we make sure we go after them and rebound. I thought this (game) was a really good test. I know (Scituate) is always a tough team and we wanted to see how our team responded with the intensity that they brought. Our girls did well and kept their composure.”
The Spartans only led twice in this game, 1-0 and 3-2, but Castelli gave the Chieftains the lead for good with a three-pointer and the visitors never looked back. Ponaganset held a 20-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, and even though Scituate scored the first four points of the second quarter, the Chieftains came back to take a 38-20 advantage at halftime.
In the third quarter, Castelli hit two three-pointers, and a basket by Pierre-Louis midway through the quarter gave the Chieftains a 50-25 lead.
“I thought we competed hard in the second half defensively,” Scituate head coach Frank Kiser added. “But in the first half, (Ponaganset) just came out and smacked us in the mouth and we didn’t react. (Senior forward) Emma (LaPlante) got in foul trouble. We struggled. We turned the ball over probably 30 times in the game.”
“But credit (Ponaganset),” added Kiser. “They can shoot the heck out of it. They’re quick, they’re well-coached, and every time we left someone open, they made us pay.”
Kiser highlighted Castelli, calling her “lights out,” as well as Ponaganset’s front-court presence, Pierre-Louis, who was on LaPlante and dominated the Spartans when LaPlante was not in the game.
Instead of throwing in the towel in the second half, the Spartans got more physical. LaPlante, who got into early foul trouble and saw limited minutes in the first half, scored all of her 10 points in the last two quarters, and Kiser said she kept her team energized.
“We got a big game from Emma,” Kiser admitted. “I thought she was strong in the second half. She did her job. It’s really about our defense. If we don’t compete defensively, we’re not going to win many games this year.”
The victory improved the Chieftains’ overall mark to 8-0 and D-I record to 4-0, but Field said they are not focused on that.
“We’re happy with our progress,” added Field, who saw his team, which won the D-II title last winter, defeat South Kingstown, Portsmouth, and Cranston West last month. “We still got plenty more to do and learn, but we’re growing each day.”
“They’re one of the better teams in Division I,” Kiser said about Ponaganset. “They will be a Final Four team when it’s all said and done.”