Hope upsets Johnston

Top-seeded Panthers fall short as Blue Wave claims DIV title


The top-seeded Johnston girls basketball team was upset 45-42 by No. 3 Hope in the Division IV Championship on Monday at the Amica Mutual Pavilion in Providence.
The Panthers had beaten the Blue Wave in each previous meeting this season and won all their contests but the season opener – a game in which the Panthers were down their top player in Jayanah Rollins.
Monday looked like it was going to be another blowout win for the Panthers, who led 12-3 in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Hope, though, would rebound in the second and go on a 9-0 run to put it within striking distance. The Blue Wave continued to chip away at the Johnston advantage in the second half and wound up leading by as many as five points in the fourth quarter.
Bella Gesualdi hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth to give the Panthers one last shot at forcing overtime. However, a Johnston foul sent Hope’s Jorday Johnson to the line where she would hit the go-ahead shot, and then Sofia Galvis would get back to the line seconds later to sink another pair of shots to put the game away.
Rollins led the way for Johnston with 20 pints while Gesualdi added 11 and Ava Waterman eight.
“It was a good basketball game. It was a hard-fought game for both teams. Losing by one possession is tough, there are a lot of things that we could look back on and think we should have done differently, but it was a winning season and they have nothing to hand their heads about,” said Johnston coach Jhamal Diggs. “A lot of people didn’t believe in this team at the beginning of the season, so for them to play the way they did and make it to the AMP, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Johnston has been rebuilding its program the past few seasons and is hoping to get back to the Division I level that is was at just three seasons ago. Diggs was proud of his seniors, including Rollins, Waterman and Aubree Allen, for helping him get things back on track in his first year as the team’s coach.
“They did a great job in getting the program back in the right direction. They bought into what I brought to the table for them and they ran with it. These seniors were awesome. They came in every day and did what they needed to get Johnston basketball ball back to where it needed to be,” said Diggs.
Gesualdi will be an important piece for the future and is set to be the team’s leader for the next two seasons. Diggs hopes that she builds on this winter’s strong performance as she takes the reins.
“Bella is an awesome player. I think once we get her to realize that and be more confident, the sky is the limit,” Diggs said. “Hopefully that happens in the next two years. We have a long of good young players so we just have to put in the work. We have to get back to work and figure things out.”


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