East Providence whisks Wheeler from girls' hoops state tournament

Dorr drains career-high 30 points in Townies' victory

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EAST PROVIDENCE — Courtney Dorr’s career-best night propelled the East Providence High School girls’ basketball team past the Wheeler School, 53-42, in the opening round of the 2017 Open State Championship Tournament played at East Greenwich High Wednesday evening, March 8.

Dorr, the Townies’ junior guard, netted 30 points total off symmetrical efforts of 15 in each half. Her performance included six 3-pointers. She spurred E.P. on a 14-0 run midway through the opening 16 minutes, which lifted the Townies from a 9-2 deficit to a 16-9 edge and a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way.

“I couldn’t do it without my team. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I’m just used to this court. We played here last year, so that could have been a reason why I was on tonight,” said Dorr.

“She was unbelievable. When’s she hot like that, we just have to let her keep shooting. She was getting to her spots. She was in the flow. It wasn’t like she was doing it on her own. She was doing it in the flow of our offense. I thought we did a good job of working the ball around. And when she was the one who was open, she did a really nice job of getting her shot off,” EPHS interim head coach Zach Roche said of Dorr. Roche was coaching his first game in the stead suspended head coach Mike Solitro.

The Warriors, seeded 10th in states and winners of the Division III championship with a 20-0 league record, never really challenged E.P. from there, though they received their own superb scoring effort from junior forward Emma Kiniry, who finished with a team-best 27. Kiniry did Dorr one better, canning seven 3s.

Both teams, respectively making their first appearances in the four-year-old Open Tourney, displayed nervous energy to start the game. Each missed open shots, had careless turnovers and appeared ill at ease from the jump.

Wheeler settled down first, finding the range and going on the 9-2 run. Kiniry had two treys during the stretch.

Dorr actually got the Townies off with a runner in the lane for a pair. She then hit her first triple of the night from the wing and followed with another from the top of the key.

Shaniah Hazard chipped in her first two buckets for E.P. during the run. Her second, on a layup, put the Townies up by seven just past the mid-point of the period.

"I think we kind of got taken out of our game. We're used to coming down and finding our shots nice and easy," said Wheeler coach Stephanie Bissett. "And I think having to work made the girls a little nervous. So they had the nerves going and then we just got frantic, overthinking our shots, overthinking our passes and just kind of telegraphing everything we were doing."

Kiniry’s third 3 broke the run, but her duel with Dorr continued as the latter next put back an E.P. miss.

The sides then traded baskets leading to intermission. Kiniry and Dorr each sank one more triple. Lily Conti got on the board for the Townies with a couple of hoops, including a jumper from the elbow as the buzzer sounded to give E.P. a 25-19 lead at the break.

“I think it was a little bit of nerves. I thought we settled ourselves defensively, and for us defense is offense. If we get stops, turn them over, we start moving, we start getting fast breaks and other teams start struggling with us sometimes,” Roche said of the Townies’ start and eventual spurt into the lead.

Kiniry and Dorr kept the range in the opening eight minutes of the second half, both making shots for their teams as their mates contributed needed baskets as well. The last of Dorr’s six 3s with just over 10 minutes remaining gave the Townies what proved their largest lead of the evening, 41-27.

Kiniry answered with two hoops while Jackie Faulise added one to bring Wheeler back to within six, 41-35, with a about seven minutes left, but two more buckets by Conti and three free throws from Amber Drainville quickly raised East Providence’s lead back to 14 for the second time, 49-35, with under three to play.

Kiniry made her final 3 with just under two to go, but couldn't connect on another attempt in between a pair of E.P. misses on front-ends of one-and-ones to all but end Wheeler's chances. The Townies subsequently closed out the victory at the free throw line in the final minute.

Hazard and Conti each finished with eight points towards the E.P. cause. Wheeler’s leading scorer during the regular season, Rumford resident Anna Metcalf, had an off night from the floor. The junior, who surpassed the 1,000 career point mark this winter, wound up with just nine points or about seven below her season average.

“The girls have been unbelievable all year. At the beginning of the year they set a goal for themselves to get to the state tournament. Our goal was to get to Open State Tournament. We made it to that goal. Now our next goal is to win every subsequent game. They’ve done a really great job of working as hard as they can and keeping the focus the whole time on basketball,” Roche said.

East Providence was playing the contest, its first since losing to Westerly in the Division II championship game last weekend, under a bit of a cloud after Solitro was put on administrative leave from his teaching and coaching duties following an arrest on domestic violence charges Sunday morning, March 5.

Roche said he addressed the matter with the players, but credited their single-mindedness for overcoming any potential distraction created by the absence of their coach.

“They made it really easy on me. It felt almost like business as usual for us in terms of actually playing the game. They know what they’re doing. They’re almost like coaches on the floor, especially the seniors,” Roche added.

The Townies, seeded seventh in the event, advance to the Elite Eight round of the state tourney on Saturday, March 11, against rival and second-seeded LaSalle. The Rams, the runners-up to Barrington in the D-I playoffs, defeated 15th-seeded Ponaganset, 54-37, in the first game at East Greenwich Thursday. East Providence and LaSalle play at the Pizzitola Center on the Brown University campus Saturday at 2 p.m.

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