EAST PROVIDENCE — After spending the last two winters vying amongst the top teams in the state, the East Providence High School girls’ basketball team has been returned to the Division II ranks in time for the 2012-13 season.
East Providence went 9-9 and 7-11 during its two-year stay in Division I, making the playoffs at the end of both seasons. Looking at the tea leaves, however, led head coach Mike Solitro to agree with the decision by the Interscholastic League to drop the Townies down a tier.
“I thought we did a pretty nice job up in D-I the two years we were there, but I also feel judging by the standard of basketball in the city right now and in the future, it just might be the best move for us going forward,” Coach Solitro, entering his seventh season at the E.P. helm, explained.
East Providence returns to the Division II-East ranks where Solitro and long-time aide Dan Cabral helped reboot was a meandering Townies’ program at the time they took over in 2006.
E.P. became one of the better teams in the division, which still features quality programs the likes of Rogers, Mt. Hope and Tiverton. Tolman and Central Falls should also be formidable foes this season.
“We have high hopes of competing in a very difficult division against Rogers, Mt. Hope, Tiverton, Tolman, and Central Falls,” Coach Solitro said. “We cross over with II-South (including defending league champ Narragansett), which is regarded as one of the best in all of D-II this year, so it isn’t going to be easy.”
The Townies take to the hardwood this winter with a roster made up predominantly of upperclassmen. Senior forward Taylor Wiggins and Mary Monagle, a senior guard, are returning starters and top offensive players. Wiggins is East Providence’s best low-post scorer/rebounder. Monagle will be counted on to score both from the perimeter and at the goal.
“We have eight seniors on the roster. This should bring some experience and knowledge to the table as we look to make a deeper run into the postseason,” Coach Solitro said.
Athletic classmates Lindsee Allienello, Thomeeka Speaks and Jailyn Kilgore spark the Townies’ pressure defense and fast-break offense. Coach Solitro is hoping senior guard Brittany Crosby’s offensive game reaches its potential.
“Their toughness, strength, and speed will be utilized to help us continue to earn the reputation of having one of the league’s most physical and relentless defenses,” Coach Solitro added. “Brittany is one of our best perimeter shooters. We’re asking her to increase her scoring output this year.”
Seniors forwards Khadeejah Morrison and Katie Krakue give the team some depth down low off the bench.
East Providence welcomes two newcomers to the program, who will hopefully make an instant impact. Forward Michaela Kelley is a junior transfer from nearby Bay View. Angela Leonardo is a freshman point guard likely to play ample minutes in the Townies’ backcourt rotation.
Juniors Logan Fontes and Erica Dias are first-year varsity players and comprise the rest of the varsity roster.
“Offense is going to be a key factor for us. We need to attack the basket and begin to start finishing at the hoop,” Coach Solitro said. “We need to use our speed and tenacity on defense to hopefully allow us to play up-tempo. Consistency, with free throws and points in the paint is a major concern early, but the girls are working hard, learning and getting better everyday.”
Since ending what was roughly a decade-long absence from the playoffs back in back in 2008, the Townies have been a regular in the postseason at both the D-I and II levels. Coach Solitro expects his team to continue its run of playoff berths this winter as well.
“I told the girls our goals for this season are right in front of us,” he said. “We have talent on the defensive end of the floor and a lot of athleticism. We have the ability to made a deep run in the playoffs.”
After playing a few more non-league games over the next few days, including a 7 p.m. home contest against Johnston on Dec. 18, the Townies open up their Division II-East regular season slate at home Thursday night, Dec. 20, against Tolman at 7 p.m.