EAST PROVIDENCE â And so, Alex Butler and his East Providence High squad was left with this: With nothing left to play for other than pride and principle, the Townies played free and easy Wednesday night while at the same time providing defending state champion St. Raphael Academy with all sorts of fits.
By no means did E.P. run away from the challenge at hand. The Townies stood toe-to-toe with the defending champs until the very end of an eventual 58-55 Saints win that demonstrated to Butler that his team was not ready to enjoy the rest of its February vacation.
âOver the past few days Iâve looked at the scores of the teams that wouldnât be going to the playoffs. All of them got rolled,â Butler stated. âWe came out and played hard.â
The Townies, who wrap up at 5-13 in Division I-East, certainly earned the respect of Saints veteran mentor Tom âSaarâ Sorrentine. âThey had us on the ropes. Those [E.P.] kids played hard. They had nothing to play for and gave us a game.â
It was a close-knit affair until the dying seconds when the Saints (14-4, Division I-East) got some slight separation thanks to coming up with some stops on the defensive end. With the ball and trailing 53-52 after a timeout with 1:08 to play, East Providence quickly attacked the rim with senior Victor Adewusi missing at point blank range. The Townies secured the offensive board with the ball quickly thrust into the hands of John Vaughn, who was positioned along the right wing.
In keeping with the defensive scheme Sorrentine recently introduced to his players, two Saints quickly swarmed Vaughn, the idea being to cut off the Townieâs ability to dribble out of traffic or pass the ball off. Eventually Vaughn lost the battle with the ball popping into the arms of SRA junior Charles Correa, who fed senior Cesar Mejia for a layup with 36 ticks remaining.
East Providenceâs next possession also ended with SRA taking the ball away. A theft by Davon Roberton occurred when the senior knocked the ball towards Correa. The end result was a trip to the foul line with Correa knocked down both to make it a five-point game with 24.9 seconds flashing on the scoreboard.
In keeping with the theme of the night, the underdog Townies refused to go quietly into the night. A 3-pointer by Nick DeBarros cut St. Raphaelâs lead to 57-55 with 6.2 seconds left. Correa then hit the first of two shots from the line to make it a 3-point game. He missed the second, which left East Providence in scramble mode as the final precious seconds ticked off.
Correa was the gameâs high man, registering 22 points while knocking down three 3-pointers. The Saints also received a big effort off the bench from John Cooney, a sophomore who amassed 10 points while hitting three shots from downtown. DeBarros led E.P. with 13 points on four treys while leading scorer Jawaan Lyles added 12 points.
The first half boiled down to 16-minute exercise in weathering the storm. The home team bolted out to a 17-6 lead as SRA began the contest just 3-of-16 from the floor with eight turnovers. Behind Correa and Cooney, the Saints were able to shoot their way back into the contest, the pair combining for six makes from deep over a four-minute span. Such proficiency sparked a 19-0 SRA run and allowed the visitors to take its first lead of the game at 25-22.
Instead of completely caving in, the Townies regrouped to take a 33-29 lead into halftime. The pace slowed down considerably in the second half with the teams trading opportunities to seize control. A 3-ball from freshman Graham Lynch put SRA up 39-38 with 10 minutes remaining.
Jumpers by Vaughn and Lyles helped the upset-minded Townies pull even at 51-all before a free throw by Adewusi pinned SRA in a one-point hole with 1:55 left. Junior Abdou Bah picked a fine time to record his first hoop of the contest, cleaning up a Jordan Peguero miss at 1:33 to reclaim the lead for the Saints.