WESTERLY – Amid a streak of high-level success for the program, the current version of the South Kingstown High School girls basketball team may be the best of the best, and the rest of the field inWesterly Community Credit Union Holiday Basketball Tournament would agree with that sentiment.
The Rebels won the 36th annual even for the fourth year in a row, but with a new level of dominance. They blasted host Westerly 69-22 in the opening round of the four-team bracket on Thursday, then rolled over Stonington 66-18 in Saturday's championship game.
While the Rebels will face stiffer competition when they open Division I league play, the holiday show was still impressive.
“I just told the girls, it's great to win games and win the tournament but it's especially fantastic to watch them play basketball like they did tonight,” head coach Henry Herbermann said after the championship game.
Senior Hayden Hill earned tournament MVP honors with 24 points in the two games, including a team-high 13 in the finals. Sophomore Jami Hill, who scored 15 points in the first round and 11 in the title game, earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Senior Faith Hutchins was presented with the inaugural Joseph N. Cugini Community Service Award, which honors leadership and community service.
The first-round win over Westerly saw the Rebels catch fire with a 33-4 first-half surge. That led to a 43-11 halftime lead, and they put it on cruise control from there.
It was more of the same in the finals, as South Kingstown overwhelmed Stonington with pressure defense and balanced scoring. The Rebels forced 18 first-half turnovers before settling into a more passive 2-3 zone. At the offensive end, 11 different players scored and the Rebels hit eight 3-pointers.
“Their defense was intense. It was tough and it was getting deflections and getting steals all over the place,” Herbermann said. “Passing was awesome. I thought we did a great job of driving to the rim, drawing the defense and passing to open girls. And we were making shots. It was fun.”
Hayden hill scored seven of her team's first nine points to power the early surge. She scored on the break, buried a 3 and turned a steal into a layup that made it 9-0 with 11:45 left. After Stonington made its first field goal with 10:30 left, the Rebels scored 11 in a row on buckets inside by Carley Fewlass, Faith Hutchins, Jami Hill and Jane Carr, and a 3-pointer by Hayden Hill.
When Stonington made it 20-5, the Rebels surged to a 13-0 run powered by Morgan Gutelius, who came off the bench to hit two 3-pointers and scored on a putback. A three-point play by Jami Hill pushed the lead to 33-5. It was a 44-7 advantage at halftime and it grew to 53-8 early in the second half. Bench players took over for the final nine minutes.
“We've had some competitive ones. I thought today, the score didn't look competitive, but Stonington plays hard and they're physical and they're tough,” Herbermann said. “I'm sure they'll have a good season. It's been a fun tournament for us.”
Though the games were just the third and fourth of the year for the Rebels, they've looked like to be in midseason form.
“Usually when we start off, it's a little bumpy,” Hayden Hill said. “But now I feel like we're having a really good start and we should be OK.”
The versatile offense makes the Rebels difficult to stop.
“We have a lot of good players and you know what? They're all unselfish,” Herbermann said. “I think they're all very capable of scoring in multiple ways. We move the ball and find the open girl and play smart basketball. It's been working pretty well. We're still not really running our offense, but they're just playing basketball. We have tried to teach them and to emphasize, 'We have an offensive system, but at any point when you see the opportunity, take it. Drive to the rim, take the open shot, cut to the basket.' They're doing a great job of that.”