PROVIDENCE – Another game, and another strong run by Narragansett in the second half, led to a second-straight Division II title game berth for the Mariners.
The second-seeded Mariners played even with No. 11 Coventry for about a half, but pulled away as the second half started for a 59-42 win Wednesday night in the Division II girls’ basketball playoffs at the Murray Center on the Rhode Island College campus.
“The first five minutes of both halves are crucial,” Narragansett head coach Kathryn Mahoney said. “They turn on that high pressure.”
Narragansett received balancing scoring from its starting five – Maggie Salomone, Abby McKanna, Chelsea Sahagian, Hannah Maymon and Ali Castrovillari.
Except for Alicia Simeone subbing in for about three minutes, and some end of game substitutes, the Mariners’ starting five played all 32 minutes.
Most of the offense was run through Salomone (17 points) and McKanna (15), but McKanna set the tone defensively for Narragansett. The sophomore finished with five steals and four blocks.
Salomone had four steals and two blocks, while Sahagian also chipped in four steals.
“That was Chelsea’s 50 percent, which speaks to her ability,” Mahoney said, mentioning that the sophomore had been sick for part of the week.
As usual, Salomone played aggressively in all facets of the game, attacking the basket and getting to the line in the process. She also glowered at officials and hit a wide-open 3 in garbage time against Coventry’s junior varsity.
Mahoney acknowledged that Salomone plays with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, but it helps to fuel the positive aspects of her game as well.
“It’s been a huge learning process for her to control her emotions,” Mahoney said, adding that she was happy with the progress Salomone had made this year.
The Mariners finished with 15 steals, which led to easy buckets, as opposed to Coventry, as the Oakers only finished with seven steals.
After one half, Narragansett only held a 24-20 lead, thanks to Alyssa Derrick (12 points) and Kaitlin Mattera (6) hitting jumpers for Coventry.
While Derrick continued to score, finishing with a game-high 21 points, Mattera and the rest of the Oakers went cold. Derrick had nine points in the second half, while the rest of the Coventry roster combined for just 13.
Derrick shot well when she got the ball in the post and in open space, but the problem for Coventry was getting her the ball. Narragansett switched McKanna on to Derrick midway through the second half, which forced other Coventry players to try and contribute.
In the first half, the Oakers were able to take advantage of the size disparity they held over Narragansett – Maymon is the only Mariner regular over 5’11”. However, with McKanna guarding Derrick, the Oakers’ other inside options – Higgins, Mattera and Ashley McNulty – couldn’t capitalize.
Narragansett’s skill in the backcourt also limited Coventry defensively. With McKanna, Salomone, Castrovillari and Sahagian all able to bring the ball up, the aggressive defense of Thurstina Horton was less effective, as Narragansett simply had other players initiate the offense.
The Mariners will play No. 8 Prout in the Division II final, which is set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ryan Center on the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus.
The Crusaders reached the title game with its second-straight playoff upset, 34-28, against No. 4 Moses Brown. In contrast to the Mariners, Prout plays a slow, highly controlled and defensive style.
“They’re a tough matchup,” Mahoney said. “They’re going to come out fired up. They’ve had two huge wins.”
Both teams have experience at the Ryan Center, with the Mariners winning the Division II title in 2012 and the Crusaders in 2011. Starters on both teams either started or played on both of those teams.
“It should be exciting, it’s an ideal matchup with cross-town rivals,” Mahoney said, adding that she was confident her team would perform well.
“I think we’re fortunate in the sense that once they’re on the floor and in that moment, everything else fades away,” she said. “They have one last game to leave it on the floor.”
For a photo gallery of Wednesday’s game from The Providence Journal, click here.
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