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PROVIDENCE â Way back in January, St. Raphael Academy faced Scituate in a crossover tilt between league frontrunners.
Despite the Spartansâ physical presence, or the fact it would eventually become the Division II-North champion with a stellar 16-2 mark, the Saints manufactured a 44-38 triumph, though head coach Fred Saunders claimed it was a tough, aggressive affair.
The two foes met again in a R.I. Division II semifinal at Rhode Island College on Wednesday night for the right to play for the state crown on Saturday. And this time, the same ensued, except âŠ
Senior co-captain Rybecca Gonzalez mustered a display for the ages, recording a phenomenal 22 points, 15 rebounds, four steals, three blocks and three more assists. With that astonishing effort, the top-seeded Saints collected a thrilling 51-46 victory.
It also gained a berth in the championship final opposite second-ranked Rogers â a 56-48 victor over Coventry â at the University of Rhode Islandâs Ryan Center on Saturday afternoon.
Game time is slated for 1:30 p.m.
For a total of 29:35, excepting the initial 42 seconds of the first and the final 1:53, Scituate (which fell to 18-3) held the lead; in fact, it had a 38-30 cushion with 9:30 left in regulation, but â from that point on â St. Raphael outscored the Spartans, 21-8.
While the elder Gonzalez paced her triumphant teammates, fellow senior co-captain Felicia Baccari mustered seven points while junior sharpshooter chipped in nine and classmate Seun Shittu six.
For Scituate, senior co-captain Julia Corsi netted a team-high 13 and fellow captain Talia Pino 12. Junior center Sadie Ross gathered 10 points while easily leading her club in rebounds.
âI donât have enough adjectives to describe Rybecca,â an elated head coach Fred Saunders gushed later. âShe was second-team All-State, but I canât find five kids better than her in Rhode Island. She carried this team (Wednesday night), and I donât know many girls who can say that.
âShe just wanted it,â he added. âI could see that before the game. She was a sparkplug offensively and the same defensively. We needed her to come up big for us, especially the way we were playing, and she did just that.â
Corsiâs trey with 9:30 left had lifted Scituate to a 38-30 advantage, and the Saints seemed in big trouble. But after a Shittu free throw, she nailed a baseline hook.
With 6:41 remaining, Gonzalez drained a foul shot to make it 38-34, but Ross hit a long jumper to lift Scituate to a 40-34 lead.
Three times between the 5:22 mark (sister Danyel Gonzalezâ trey) and 2:11 (Baccariâs shot hoist), the Saints closed it to a mere point, but it didnât get over the hump until sophomore Lauren Taylor canned a fast-break layin to give SRA its first lead of the game (47-46) with 1:53 left.
At the 29.3 mark, the elder Gonzalez bobbed and weaved through the lane for a layup that virtually closed it.
The Spartans needed little time to gain a cushion. They took advantage of four SRA turnovers in the opening 2:53 as Scituate ran out to a 9-0 lead, helped out by a Ross conventional three-point play and Pinoâs four-foot jumper with 13:07 left.
Scituate maintained a similar advantage through the middle of the session until the Saints began finding the basket. Trailing 15-7 with 8:37 remaining, Rybecca Gonzalez hit a layup, but the Spartans responded with seven of the next nine points.
There was still 4:27 left when Gonzalez, the senior co-captain, nailed back-to-back treys in the span of 33 seconds to slice the SRA deficit to 22-18.
It cut it to four again at 24-20 on Lauren Taylorâs seven-foot baseline jumper, but Scituate outscored the Saints once more, 7-3, in the final 3:00.
Birell sparked that mini-surge with a three-point bomb.
All told, Rybecca Gonzalez closed the stanza with a game-leading 14 points. For the Spartans, Corsi and Ross each dropped seven.