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PAWTUCKET â It was one of those nights where you simply tip your cap and commend your opponent for a job well done.
Westerly High left no doubt who the better team was Tuesday at âThe Cage,â the Bulldogs fashioning an impressive 80-61 triumph against Shea High. No matter what defensive alignment or lineup combination Shea head coach Matt Pita utilized in desperate hope of knocking Westerly off kilter, nothing seemed to work against a Bulldogsâ outfit that owned both sides of the court.
From an offensive standpoint, Westerly (8-1, Division II-South) received contributions by the bushel. Senior Zach Burbine netted his teamâs first 14 points en route to pouring in 22 â 12 via the trey. The Bulldogsâ usual high-volume scorer once again lived up to his top billing as senior Austin Cilley torched the home team for 24 points. Freshman Jacee Hamelin (13 points) and senior Maximillian Bumarch (12 points) also aided the victorsâ cause.
âIf it wasnât one guy, it was somebody else stepping up,â stated Pita about Westerlyâs good offensive fortune.
Senior Nathan Lopes strung together a double-double outing for Shea â 11 points, 10 rebounds â
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while classmate Eli Itkin finished with 10 points.
The Raiders were hurt themselves repeatedly with 24 turnovers on their way to falling to 5-4 in Division II-Central.
While the final score may give off the impression of what a one-sided affair this was, there was a point in the second half where the home team seemed poised to dig itself out of a deep hole and not allow Westerly to waltz off the floor with an easy âW.â Trailing 55-41 with 9:42 remaining, the Raiders ripped off seven straight points in what amounted to a 13-4 surge. Back-to-back baskets by Lopes down low and a nifty layup by Armani Luciano cut Westerlyâs lead to 59-54 at the 6:10 mark.
Following a timeout called by Westerly mentor Mike Gleason, the Bulldogs began applying the finishing touches by turning defense into easy scores. Shea turned it over on five consecutive possessions, which translated into a 67-54 hole following Cileyâs scoop to the bucket with just under four minutes left.
âThey got back in the game by turning us over and we were able to do the opposite to them,â said Gleason. âWhen you play on this court, the game can turn into a track meet.â
The Raidersâ woes down the stretch included just two field goals and two free throws after closing to within five points. The final 10 points the Bulldogs scored came via the charity stripe.
âTo their credit, they slowed us down big time,â said Pita about Westerlyâs ability to make Shea play at a much more deliberate pace.
Shea was able to weather Burbineâs hot hand early, trailing just 14-11 with not even six minutes gone by. The deficit grew to 21-13 before a 12-4 surge by the Raiders forced a 25-all stalemate. The two sides continued to trade baskets before Westerly was able to get a little separation right before the half to grab a 37-33 lead.
The beginning of the second half resembled the start as Burbine buried two threes to put Westerly up double figures. Shea tried its best to remain ut of harmâs way, but it was simply all Westerly all the time.