Portsmouth High rallies past East Providence in Injury Fund girls' hoops


EAST PROVIDENCE — The Portsmouth High School girls' basketball team rallied past host East Providence over the final five minutes of the second half en route to a narrow 45-43 victory in a non-league Injury Fund contest between the sides Friday night, Dec. 7.

The Patriots trailed by a night-high nine points (34-25) when the Townies' Lindsee Allienello converted a break-away layup with 4 minutes, 45 seconds to go in the contest. Portsmouth, however, immediately followed with a 10-0 run to take its initial lead (35-34) since the two-minute mark of the opening period.

The Pats added another point to their spree to go up by two. E.P. tied the score for what proved the final time (36-all) on two Angela Leonardo free throws with 2:01 remaining.

Portsmouth regained the lead for keeps next on Samantha Turcotte's fast-break hoop off a Townie miss. The Patriots actually could have made the final minutes a bit easier on themselves had they made more free throws. Portsmouth went just 9-for-16 from the charity stripe over the last three minutes of the game. One Brianna Turcotte foul shot with 1.1 second left finally salted away the victory.

"We just stepped up our defense a little bit there in the second half. We were aggressive denying the passing lanes. We're a very young team. At the end of the game we had a freshman, three sophomores and a senior on the floor. I'm really proud of their effort. They came out and played really hard," said first-year Portsmouth head coach Robert Johnson. Johnson takes over on the Patriots' bench for long-time mentor Jeff Goss, who left coaching to take an administrative position in the Providence School System.

Sam Turcotte led the Patriots, of Division I-East, with a game-best 18 points. Jamie Hole added 11. Brianna Turcotte had eight and Hannah Wilkie seven.

Taylor Wiggins paced the Townies, reassigned this winter to Division II-East from the D-I ranks, with 13 points. Leonardo, a freshman point guard who scored 16 points earlier in evening in the junior varsity contest, chipped in eight. Thomeeka Speaks added seven off the bench and Brittany Crosby five.

"The positives we can take away from tonight is that I thought we played well on defense. We mixed it up a lot. We had some people playing in different spots, and I thought they did a good job. I thought we kept Portsmouth off-balance," said East Providence head coach Mike Solitro. "Offensively, we've got to start taking better care of the basketball. And we have to execute our set plays better out of time-outs."

Neither team played particularly well on the offensive end. The Patriots were first to string a few hoops together, building a slim early lead. E.P. found its rhythm midway through the first half, eventually overtaking Portsmouth (14-13) on a Wiggins' layup off a nifty pass from Leonardo.

Hole next drained the first of what were her three, rainbow 3-pointers on the night to put the Pats back on top briefly. But the Townies scored the final four points of the period on two Speaks' free throws and a Crosby layup to carry an 18-16 lead to intermission.

Out of the break, East Providence continued its improved play. The Townies went up by eight (29-21) on back-to-back Wiggins' buckets six minutes into the second half. Their edge grew to a night-high nine when Allienello made her layup with 4:45 left.

East Providence, though, had too many empty trips the rest of the way. The Townies either turned the ball over or couldn't convert looks from deep inside the painted area.

The Patriots, meanwhile, finally regained some semblance of form on offense. Brianna Turcotte started their 11-0 rally with a 3. Hole made another from downtown and was fouled, but missed the chance to convert a four-point play.

Hole added another hoop, a drive to the goal, and Sam Turcotte made three free throws, the last giving Portsmouth a 36-34 lead with just over two minutes left.

The Patriots would eventually make enough foul shots down the stretch to finish off the victory while the Townies couldn't find enough offense in closing minutes to finish off what would have been an impressive opening win.

"The girls stepped up when they had to," Coach Johnson said. "Overall, I thought it was a good effort for our first game of the season. This is my first year and we've only been together for 10 days, so I'm happy with how we played."

Said Coach Solitro, "Things we've been talking about with the girls are what hurt us tonight. We've got to make layups and free throws. We're not going to wow anyone with our offensive sets, so we've got to make some more of those layups when we have the opportunity."

The Patriots open up their I-East regular season schedule Wednesday, Dec. 12, at home against Barrington at 7 p.m. The Townies play another non-league game Tuesday night, Dec. 11, at home against Lincoln also at 7.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.