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By BRENDAN McGAIR
The R.I. boysâ basketball open state tournament got underway Wednesday with four âRound of 16â games that were decided by a grand total of 12 points. The evening saw everything from the No. 15 seed (Hendricken) sending the two seed (La Salle) packing to the No. 16 seed (West Warwick) give the tourneyâs overall seed (Classical) a serious run for its money.
Now we turn our attention to Thursdayâs action, which heavily laden with Blackstone Valley flavor. Three area teams who arenât exactly located right around the corner from Bristol head to Roger Williams University to see if they can accomplish the following objective: survive and advance. Thatâs all that truly matters this time of year.
The first game tips off at 6 oâclock and features No. 5 seed and Division III champ North Smithfield facing 12th seeded Shea. Immediately following that game will see No. 4 seed and Division II victor Cumberland cross paths with No. 13 Prout.
Looking at North Smithfield-Shea, the key figures to be how the Raiders combat the Northmenâs low-post players in seniors Peter Keenan and Matt Walkow. Keenan and Walkow possess some of the same traits as Cumberland duo Dylan Boisclair and Greg Joubert, though its important for Shea to not lose sight of Walkow when he steps behind the 3-point line.
One thing about this yearâs Shea squad thatâs been impressive is that theyâve been winning minus a tried-and-true point guard. Instead, head coach Matt Pita asks all of his players to chip in with the ball-handling duties, something that figures to come in handy Thursday when North Smithfield revs up the full-court pressure and guards Dan Jordan and Walker Strick are attempting to rattle Sheaâs cages.
Cumberland and Prout met back on Jan. 7 at the Wellness Center with the Clippers going on to stage a 62-54 win. Head coach Gary Reedy remembers Cumberland being up in the neighborhood of 18-20 points that night, but he shook his head when he looked down at the scorebook and saw the Clippers went an abysmal 13-for-30 at the foul line.
A few Crusaders to keep an eye on â senior big man Justin Bristol, who netted 18 points against the Clippers, and senior guard Eric Rameika, who is Proutâs answer to Cumberlandâs Ben Bradley â an outside threat who can also put the ball on the floor.
âThey play tough defense,â noted Reedy about another area of concern regarding Prout.
Cumberland, North Smithfield, Shea and Prout makeup the Region IV component of the open state hoops fest. Region III is also in action Thursday night with CCRI-Warwick featuring No. 6 Mount Pleasant and No. 11 Barrington at 6:30 followed by No. 3 North Kingstown and No. 14 Cranston West at 8:15.
We now know the times for Sundayâs quarterfinal-round quadruple header at Providence Collegeâs Alumni Hall. Thursdayâs winners at CCRI-Warwick will kick things off at 11:30 a.m. followed by Hendricken-Hope at 1:30 p.m. Play resumes at 6:30 p.m. with Classical taking on Westerly with the winners of North Smithfield-Shea and Cumberland-Prout closing things out with an 8:30 p.m. contest.
Here are the links for the preview articles for Cumberland, Shea and North Smithfield âŠ
At Cumberland, how a group of football players brought a championship-caliber aura from the gridiron to the hardwood: http://pawtuckettimes.com/content/cumberland-football-players-key-basket...
Sheaâs Henry Coleman is not your typical assistant coach: http://pawtuckettimes.com/content/sheas-coleman-leaves-no-stone-unturned...
North Smithfield hopes to make a splash on the big stage: http://www.woonsocketcall.com/node/7567