Falcons soaring

Young West club gets off to strong start

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The Cranston West girls basketball team has jumped out to a hot start to tip off the 2019-2020 season, winning five of its first six games and rolling past some of the top teams in the state.

After going 7-11 last season, the Lady Falcons have surged this year and have boasted one of the top offenses in the division. West has a deep, versatile lineup with a rotation that runs 8-10 players deep.

“Any given night we could have up to eight girls scoring double digits. We’re a very balanced team, selfless, we’re very young too. It’s a very young group, but they’re very tough, resilient, not afraid. They’re fun to coach,” said West coach PJ Thibodeau.

Leading the way as of Tuesday afternoon was Nysia Ortiz, who has averaged 9.2 points per game. Amanda Degnan is right behind her at 7.2 points per game, while Maddie Alves is scoring 6.8.

The one thing they have in common? All three of them are sophomores.

West features arguably the youngest roster in the division, however, the majority of the players have competed alongside one another at both the youth level and AAU, and some have also been coached by Thibodeau in the past. West currently has just one senior and one junior on its roster.

Although the Lady Falcons have gotten off to such a strong start, they have also experienced some growing pains from time to time. Thibodeau hopes to see his club gain more experience, further develop its skills at the high school level, and to set the program up for success for the long term.

“The level of basketball needs to improve since they’re all sophomores, but the fight and the will is very high. I want to compare us to the La Salle’s, North Kingstown’s, South Kingstown’s, St. Ray’s, I think those four are the top teams in the state. That is ultimately where we want to be, and I already think a lot of teams in the RIIL don’t want to play us. I think this group will be (special) over the next five years, I expect them to have some big years,” said Thibodeau.

The Falcons squared off against Bay View on Tuesday night, but the results were not available at press time. West will hit the road to take on St. Ray’s this evening.

Looking ahead, Thibodeau believes that his team must learn from its mistakes, eliminate turnovers, and get used to playing more experienced teams in order for it to make a deep postseason run in 2020.

“The biggest thing is being able to cut down the amount of turnovers and to be more focused against those better teams. You can get away with those things when you have the advantage with aggression, you can hide some of those flaws. But with the better teams, they don’t make as many mistakes, they know how to attack us, they know what they’re doing,” said Thibodeau. “Those teams that have a lot of seniors like SK and La Salle, they have that experience and know what it takes. We’re still getting there.”

Members of the 2019-2020 Cranston West girls basketball team include: Isabella D’Arezzo, Amanda Degnan, Kaitlyn Antonucci, Nysia Ortiz, Maddie Alves, Sara Capasso, Aydan Gulliver, Julia Robbins, Kiley Abendroth, Rachel Paulhus, Catherine Albizu Loaiza, Delanie Short, Talia Thibodeau. Coaches are PJ Thibodeau, assistant coach Rebecca Dion, volunteers Jenna Ayala, Derrick Campbell and Courtney Lamberese.

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