The Pilgrim girls’ basketball team just couldn’t seem to get its hands on the ball when it needed to on Tuesday night.
Playing Chariho, and missing starting center Betsy Heidel, the Pats were out-sized and out-rebounded as a result, leading to constant second-chance points and, eventually, a 59-46 loss at the hands of the Chargers.
It had little to do with effort, but Pilgrim surrendered 20 offensive rebounds, and that proved to be the difference.
“Our starting center, Betsy Heidel, is out with a chip fracture in her finger,” Pilgrim head coach Ian Smith said. “That was a bad night for that, because we compete every night, but Chariho is one team that we talked about having the size-advantage against. Most of the halftime speech and adjustments was, ‘We are getting out-rebounded.’”
Danielle LeBlanc scored 20 points to lead the Pats, while Guilia Garcia scored 11 – all in the second half – and Megan St. Jacques had six.
But the Chargers got 21 points from Nancy Toth and 16 from Abigail Cuddy to set the tone. Every one of Cuddy’s points came in the low post.
“That’s something we’ve been really focusing on with these girls,” Chariho head coach Arianna Dolock said. “We’re absolutely out-sized with every other team in the state. It’s kind of like a confidence thing. We’ve been working really hard with the post players.”
Pilgrim remained winless in Division I-South, falling to 0-10, and Chariho improved its record to 4-6.
“The kids work hard every day,” Smith said. “When the scoreboard is not giving that many results, that’s a tough thing to do. There’s no reward on the scoreboard right now, unfortunately. They’re getting better and I think they know that. They’re working hard every day.”
The Pats hung tough early in the game, as Chariho went ahead 8-2 before Pilgrim fought back to make it 11-10, with LeBlanc pouring in six points over that span.
But a quick 9-0 run put Chariho in front 20-10. Stephanie Sweet hit a jumper for the Pats and LeBlanc made one free throw to get back within seven, but the Chargers scored five more in a row – four on putbacks off offensive rebounds by Cuddy – to go up 25-13.
Twice the Pats brought the game back within 10 points, at 30-20 and 32-22, but an offensive rebound and layup by Mattie Russell seconds before the buzzer sounded gave the Chargers a 34-22 lead at the half.
“They killed us on the rebounds tonight,” Smith said.
Garcia knocked down a long jumper out of the gate in the second half, but then Chariho put the game away.
Jennifer Darmanin scored on a rebound off her own miss, and Toth buried a three on Chariho’s next possession. A second consecutive Pilgrim turnover led to the Chargers getting out in transition, and Toth hit another three to put her team up 42-24.
“We lost track of their best shooter,” Smith said. “She hit those two threes in a row. We had a tough time finding her tonight, for some reason.”
Pilgrim tried to get back in the game, but Chariho turned it over only five times in the half and continued to dominate the glass.
LeBlanc was held to just five points in the second half after scoring 16 in the first.
“A lot of the first half, Danielle created turnovers by herself or our pressure created turnovers,” Smith said. “That gave her a ton of opportunities. In the second half, they definitely took care of the ball better and that limited her right there.”
The Chargers maintained a steady double-digit lead, with Pilgrim’s best chance for a comeback coming as it drew within 12, at 53-41, with 3:18 left on a LeBlanc steal and layup.
Yet, even with the Pats applying a full-court press in the final minutes, the Chargers were able to move the ball effectively and run out the clock without much trouble.
Garcia knocked down a three in the final minute to get the Pats to 57-46 before Chariho finished things off.
“My girls did a really nice job of being able to slow it down and being able to focus back on what we need to do,” Dolock said.
Pilgrim now has nine games, including eight league match-ups, left on its schedule.
One of its best opportunities at a league win should be today, when the Pats will host 2-8 Coventry.
The Oakers beat Pilgrim 44-35 earlier this season in the Coventry Credit Union Classic, but it was one of the Pats’ most competitive games.
“The effort is there every night, every practice,” Smith said. “They’re doing everything they can. I couldn’t be happier with their effort.”