PAWTUCKET â€“ It will be two former division rivals squaring off for Lynch Memorial Tournament supremacy come Saturday night.
Woonsocket fought back from a 48-42 deficit with less than three minutes remaining to post a 53-48 triumph over defending champion Central Falls Thursday night in opening round action at the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club. Woonsocket will now take on St. Raphael, which ran past Providence Country Day, 71-45.
The Saints and Villa Novans have been butting heads the past several seasons in Division I-North, which automatically guaranteed two meetings per season. Now theyâ€™ll meet just once this season after the Interscholastic Leagueâ€™s quadrennial realignment procedure placed SRA in I-East. Woonsocket, which has won the last six regular season meetings with St. Raphael, remains in the north.
For a long time it appeared the Novans would be hard-pressed to make it to Saturdayâ€™s title game, set for 7:45. Woonsocket turned the ball over 17 times in the opening half as C.F. did everything within its grasp to frustrate Kyle Ivey-Jonesâ€™ club. Despite the inauspicious start, the Novans were right there at halftime, trailing by one (26-25).
â€śWe werenâ€™t focused on what was happening. When guys leave me (following the season) I have to reprogram them, and it shouldnâ€™t be that way,â€ť said Ivey-Jones. â€śMy guys think they are jump shooters, and the first half clearly tested that. We make one or two passes and want to put up a 19-footer.â€ť
Slowly but surely the Novans started to figure out the Warriorsâ€™ pressing scheme. Down 33-28 early in the second half, Woonsocket proceeded to rip off eight quick points â€“ the final three on a 3-point play from Jesse Charette â€“ to go up 38-32 at 7:32.
C.F. head coach Brian Crookes then watched his young and inexperienced club shake off a seven-minute stretch where the Warriors didnâ€™t score a point to fight back and grab a 43-40 lead at the 4:51 mark. Brian Collazo drained a three to put Central Falls up one and Ryan Murray followed up with a tough hoop after two missed free throws by Kevin Cleveland.
C.F.â€™s lead grew to six after Murray scored on back-to-back trips. Murray and Clifton Johnson each scored 11 points to lead the Warriors.
The stretch run belonged to Woonsocket, and in particular Dennis Harmon. Harmon drained a triple to make it 48-45, then delivered a 3-point sequence to tie the game with 1:41 left.
Two free throws by Josh Houle (15 points) with 43 seconds left snapped the deadlock as the Novans would not look back. The Warriors ended the game with four straight misses from the field along with two misses at the foul line and three turnovers. C.F. will now meet PCD in Saturdayâ€™s consolation game at 6.
â€śYouâ€™ve got to protect the lead,â€ť said Crookes. â€śWeâ€™ve got some guys contributing at the varsity level for the first time, so youâ€™re going to have mistakes. It certainly wasnâ€™t for a lack of effort. Everyone who stepped on the floor gave me everything they had.â€ť
Jarome Robinson, who notched 14 points, spent most of the night running the point for Woonsocket. Like several teammates, Robinson is making the transition from winning a Division II Super Bowl to contributing on the hardwood.
â€śSome of the guys have to get out of football mode, and I understand that,â€ť said Ivey-Jones.
Junior Cesar Mejia paced SRA with 14 points and 5 assists while sophomore Charles Correa added 11 points and 11 assists. Senior Trevor Vasey added 11 points while newcomer Devon Robertson pulled down 10 rebounds.
WOONSOCKET (53): Flavio Barros 2 1-2 5, Jesse Charette 2 5-5 19, Dennis Harmon 2 1-3 6, Jarome Robinson 5 3-8 14, Kodie Spearman 1 0-0 2, Andreas Brackett 0 1-2 1, Josh Houle 4 3-4 15, Edwin Jones 1 1-1 3, Kory Lawrence 0 1-6 1. Totals: 17 16-31 53.
CENTRAL FALLS (48): Clifton Johnson 5 0-0 11, Ryan Murray 5 1-2 11, Steven Vasquez 2 2-2 7, Derrick Lopes 1 2-2 4, Emmett Dixon 2 0-0 4, Willie Brotherton 2 0-0 5, Steven Cleveland 0 0-4 0, Brian Collazo 1 0-0 3, Kevin Cleveland 0 3-8 3. Totals: 18 8-18 48.
Halftime: CF 26-25.
Three-point field goals: W 3 (Dennis Harmon, Jarome Robinson, Josh Houle); CF 3 (Clifton Johnson, Steven Vasquez, Brian Collazo).
PCD (45): Tyler Mosher 3 5-6 11, Steve Coccio 2 5-8 12, Matt Davitt 3 4-4 13, Rickey Tacid 1 2-2 5, Manny Jaurdain 0 0-1 0, Tom Horvat 1 2-6 4. Totals: 14 16-22 45.
ST. RAPHAEL (71): Zach Mays 1 0-0 2, Calvin Contreras 1 1-2 3, Jordan Peguero 4 2-2 10, Cesar Mejia 5 2-3 14, Charles Correa 5 0-0 11, Trevor Vasey 5 0-0 11, Franklin Batista 2 0-0 4, Jazz Robinson 2 0-0 5, Ben Pilsbury 1 0-0 2, Austin Hill 1 0-0 2, Devon Robertson 3 1-2 7. Totals: 30 6-9 71.
Halftime: SRA 46-26.
Three-point field goals: PCD 3 (Steve Coccio, Matt Davitt, Rickey Tacid): SRA (Cesar Mejia 2, Jazz Robinson, Charles Correa, Trevor Vasey).