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PAWTUCKET --- St. Raphael Academy got on Thursday night what they couldnâ€™t get in their close defeat to Portsmouth High three nights earlier â€“ a full game out of junior guard Cesar Mejia and an outstanding defensive effort against a solid team.
Mejia poured in a game-high 22 points and added four steals to help his team force Hope High into committing 24 turnovers and come away with a 62-40 victory in their Division I-East affair at the Saintsâ€™ Wellness Center.
The win, which raised the Saintsâ€™ overall record to 3-1 and even their division mark at 1-1, came on the heels of a 60-54 loss to the Patriots that saw Mejia (SRAâ€™s top scorer with a 14.3 points-per-game average) run into foul trouble and the Saints struggle defensively, especially in the second half, when Portsmouth broke a halftime tie with 35 points.
That poor effort, along with the prospects of dealing with the speedy, athletic Blue Wave (1-2 in the division), worried SRA coach Tom â€śSaarâ€ť Sorrentine a bit before the contest, but his players put him at ease with a strong defensive showing that saw them limit Hope to just nine points in the first 11Â˝ minutes of the game.
â€śWe really didnâ€™t play good defense the first game against Portsmouth, but we knew we needed to play good defense against these guys,â€ť admitted Sorrentine. â€ś(Hope) has a lot of athletes, so we wanted to cut them off going to the hoop. We didnâ€™t want them to take everything to the hole.
â€śI was happy with our defense. We did a good job helping out, we came up with some steals, and we got a few charges.â€ť
The Saints also won the battles on the glass with the smaller Blue Wave, who didnâ€™t have a starter over 6-foot-3. Senior 6-foot-6 forward Trevor Vasey and junior 6-foot-5 forward Davon Robertson teamed up to score 17 points and collect 16 rebounds for the winners.
While Vasey and Robertson were taking care of business down low, Mejia was doing the bulk of his damage in the first half by scoring 17 points. Most of them came on layups and he added a couple of pullup jumpers in the final few minutes to help give SRA a 35-19 lead at the break.
â€śThe other night (against Portsmouth), I had to sit Cesar in the first half and he ended up fouling out with seven minutes to play,â€ť noted Sorrentine. â€śWe need him obviously, and tonight, he played a good game.â€ť
Sophomore point guard Charles Correa also netted eight points and had as many assists, and he dished off four of them in the early going to help key a 12-point run and give the hosts a 25-9 command they wouldnâ€™t relinquish.
The visitors got no closer than 14 points the rest of the way, and the Saints used a nine-point run midway through the second half to take their largest lead of the night (51-28) and allow Sorrentine to begin emptying his bench.
The Saints are back in action next Monday night with an important division game against neighboring East Providence High at the Towniesâ€™ gym. The Townies, who will take on Portsmouth tonight, are 2-0 after winning a pair of low-scoring nailbiters with Barrington and Hope.
â€śTheyâ€™ve been winning,â€ť said Sorrentine. â€śItâ€™s going to be a very good game.â€ť
HOPE (40): David Gonzalez 1 0-0 3, Albert Rodriguez 1 0-0 2, Derrick Thompson 4 1-1 9, Sam Sayeh 0 1-2 1, Joshua Jones 4 0-0 10, Delonce Wright 2 0-0 4, Mike LeBlanc 3 0-4 7. Totals: 16 4-10 40.
ST. RAPHAEL (62): Jordan Peguero 1 1-2 3, Cesar Mejia 9 3-5 22, Charles Correa 2 2-2 8, Trevor vasey 3 0-0 6, Franklin Batista 2 0-0 4, Jazz Robinson 1 1-2 4, Ben Pillsbury 2 0-0 4, Davon Robertson 5 1-3 11. Totals: 25 8-14 62.
Halftime: St. Raphael, 35-19. Three-point field goals: Hope 4 (Jones 2, Gonzalez, LeBlanc); St. Raphael 4 (Correa 2, Mejia, Robinson).