PAWTUCKET â€” Victims of two straight Division II-Central overtime losses, Shea High's players paid particularly close attention to head coach Matt Pita before facing league rival Tolman on Tuesday night.
â€śI just told the kids I wanted them to play hard â€¦ the basketball gods hadn't been really kind to us,â€ť Pita said. â€śOur goal was to take care of the basketball; we've been averaging over 25-plus turnovers a game, and we wanted to keep it under 20 while executing to our ability and controlling the tempo.â€ť
His kids more than listened. Their full-court pressure defense stymied the Tigers throughout the first session, when the visitors made 24 turnovers, and the Raiders took full advantage while plowing to a 72-39 triumph at â€śThe Cage.â€ť
Four athletes finished in double figures, including the â€śArmaniâ€ť tandem of Baker and Luciano with 12 points, senior Alvin Semedo with 11 and junior Chris Mainville 10. Senior co-captain Eli Itkin finished with six points and a team-high 11 boards, while fellow captain Tito DoCouto chipped in eight points and nine rebounds; Luciano four assists; Mainville seven steals; and Semedo four thefts.
The lone double-figure scorer for Tolman: Senior center Jonathan Percy with 15, and senior co-captain Mamour Samb mustered nine points while sophomore Steven Otis notched seven.
All told, Shea â€“ who improved to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in II-Central â€“ forced Tolman into 35 turnovers, making only 17 of their own in this battle of winless league squads.
â€śI'm most pleased with the way we executed our game plan,â€ť Pita noted afterward. â€śWe preach in practice all the time to play smart basketball, and to know what to do in certain situations. (On Tuesday night), we excelled in situational basketball.â€ť
With 1:57 gone after the opening tip, and after missing a previous jam, Percy drilled it home to knot the game at 2-2. It would be the last, as the Raiders rattled off an 11-0 flurry over the next 3:50 to take a 13-2 lead.
Highlighting the surge were Mainville's conventional three-point play, Semedo's short jumper and Itkin's 17-footer.
The Tigers immediately came back with a 5-0 flurry of its own on Keanu Perry's three-pointer and Percy's two free throws, to cut it to six (13-7). Pita's bunch, however, responded again, outscoring Tolman, 16-6, over the next five minutes.
After Luciano's layup was blocked but Percy was called for goaltending, Shea had cushioned its lead at 29-13 with 2:52 remaining, and went into the locker rooms at the break up, 37-20.
In the second half, the two rivals traded buckets, but DoCouto netted a bucket with 14:35 remaining, Lopes dropped a finger roll and Luciano canned back-to-back treys to extend the advantage to 49-22. All told, they had manufactured a 15-4 surge in a span of 5:34 following Baker's conventional three-point play with 9:01 left.
At the 4:48 mark, Semedo turned a steal into a layup, and â€“ after being fouled â€“ another three-point play to give the Raiders a 62-32 cushion. William DePina Gomes' trey with 3:30 remaining dropped the Tigers to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in league action.
Mentor Mike Kayata admitted he wasn't thrilled with the decision, even though he had to play without the help of senior co-captain/forward Brandon Dunlap (torn meniscus) and junior guard Napoleon Johnson (personal reasons).
See RAIDERS, page C3
â€śI didn't have my two starters, and Shea's a very athletic team, a good team,â€ť he stated. â€śI knew they were going to rebound and play hard, and we prepared for Shea; we were ready. In the first half, they made all the easy shots, and we struggled to knock down buckets. We struggled against their pressure.
â€śShea's a tough place to play,â€ť he added. â€śIt was Percy's first game, and we didn't have our point guard (Johnson), but we've got a lot of young guys who are playing varsity. They're going through a learning curve. I know our guys will get better with time. I'm proud of them. They're working really hard and they;'re listening. From what I see, we're only going to get better.â€ť