KINGSTON – Despite 18 points from Chelsea Dowler, the Juanita Sanchez Complex Cavaliers are the Rhode Island girls’ basketball Division III champions, with a 43-36 win Sunday afternoon at the Ryan Center on the University of Rhode Island campus.
The Islanders dug themselves into an early hole with ugly shooting and poor defensive rebounding. Despite foul trouble to starters D’Asia Allen and Emely Cabrera, the Cavaliers built a 19-9 first half lead thanks to 10 points from freshman Elfreda Hoff.
Juanita Sanchez built its lead up to as much as 10 points with about eight minutes remaining, 30-20. However, the Cavaliers couldn’t get any more separation than that, thanks to their own poor shooting.
Middletown finally made its move in a three-minute stretch, scoring 10 points in about three minutes to get with 33-30 with 5:15 left. Dowler snuck out on rebounding opportunities, leading to long passes from Quanisha Hilson and layups.
Using the long passes, Dowler finally put Middletown over the hump as she got bumped on a drive. She hit the shot, got the foul call and hit the ensuing free throw, putting Middletown up 36-33 briefly.
Juanita Sanchez tied the game up on the next possession though, and Dowler’s bucket was the last point of the game for Middletown, as the Islanders went cold the final 2:24.
For the Cavaliers, Hoff drove hard to the lane and got hit, drawing two shots. She missed the first, but hit the second, giving Juanita Sanchez a 37-36 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
After a Middletown miss, Jaleah Robinson was left open for a corner 3, which she sank. In the game’s final 1:02, Hoff hit three free throws and had two steals to ice the result for Juanita Sanchez.
Dowler and Hilson were named to the All-Tournament Team, with Dowler taking Middletown Player of the Game honors. Hoff was named tournament MVP for her finals performance, finishing with 14 points and three steals.