EAST PROVIDENCE — The top selling Christmas gift for basketball coaches is a point guard who can handle the ball, run an offense, get his teammates good shots and make a few key baskets when the game is on the line. Santa passes these things out every five or 10 years. They don’t grow on trees.
St. Raphael Academy coach Tom Sorrentine got such a gift last Christmas in freshman Charles Correa, a Pawtucket product who has developed into an emerging sophomore with the potential to open some eyes around the state before he graduates in two years.
“He’s young and kind of small but he’s a talented player,” East Providence coach Alex Butler admitted after the 5-foot-9 Correa scored 23 points and dished out eight assists while leading the Saints to a hard-fought 66-55 victory over the Townies on Monday night.
Butler’s team got 28 points from senior forward Joe Carnevale, a pure shooter who has developed into a confident offensive player this year.
“Joe had a great game,” Butler said, “but where was everyone else? We can’t be a one-man team in this league.” No other Townies reached double figures in the scoring department.
Correa had help from senior forward Cesar Mejia, who scored 18 points and made six steals. Center Trevor Vasey added 14 points, hitting four three-pointers and even handling the ball when the Saints needed to break East Providence’s press.
Both teams were sloppy, turning the ball over on numerous occasions. The Saints let the Townies back into the game with poor passing decisions. They led 35-23 with one minute left in the first half before E.P.’s defense forced two turnovers that cut the Townies’ deficit to 35-27 at halftime.
SRA went ahead 40-28 early in the second half before E.P. went on an 8-1 run. This is where Carnevale and Correa took over the game. Carnevale hit two straight threes to pull his team within one point at 43-42 with seven minutes left. The Townies took their only lead of the night at 44-43 when Derek Andreoli converted on a strong move to the hoop.
Mejia then scored with an assist from Correa and the Saints retook the lead at 45-44. Correa made it 48-44 with a shake-and-bake drive to the hoop, drawing a foul as the ball rolled through the hoop with the elusive sophomore sitting on the floor. Correa made the free throw to complete the three-point play.
Andreoli then missed a layup in traffic before Correa converted both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 50-44 lead. Carnevale passed up a three and drove to the hoop, matching Correa’s three-point play with one of his own. Now it was 50-47 with 4:02 remaining.
Mejia turned the ball over and E.P.’s Nick Pacheco responded with a game-tying three at the 3:19 mark.
Now it was Correa’s turn. Off an in-bounds play, the sophomore caught the ball and swished a three in one motion. Then he hit a second three 35 seconds later for a 56-50 lead. Carnevale answered with a three. Vasey hit his fourth three of the night with 1:45 left for a 59-53 lead.
Carnevale drove to the hoop for two with 90 seconds left. Those were the final points of the night for the Townies. Vasey made two free throws for a 61-55 advantage and then Jazz Robinson sealed the deal with a steal and drive to the hoop with 27 seconds left.
“We shot a lot of threes,” Sorrentine said while scanning his shot chart after the final buzzer sounded. The Saints made nine of them. E.P. finished with seven.
“We couldn’t get the ball inside as much as we wanted. East Providence played us tough,” Sorrentine added.
Butler bemoaned his team’s missed shots down under the basket.
“How many shots did we miss within six feet?” he asked after the game. “That hurts your confidence. The kids miss a layup and hang their heads. We still haven’t found our rhythm as a team.”
The Townies’ coach understood that Correa was the difference in the game.
“He is something we don’t have,” the coach said. “A scoring point guard. The kid has great ability. He was hitting tough shots. He hit those two threes while falling out of bounds. The kid was making 22-footers. Those were contested shots and he was making them.”
Correa, a modest teenager, smiled when asked about his big scoring night.
“I felt like I had to take more shots when they came back at us in the second half,” he said. “I was feeling it a little bit.”
Correa netted 15 of his points in the second half. He connected on four treys, three after halftime. Carnevale scored 14 in each half.
Correa’s most eye-opening moment came in a playmaking role as he drove to the hoop in the second half and found his path blocked by two defenders. While maintaining his dribble, he flipped a pass behind his back to Terrence Manning, who caught the ball and spun it into the basket for his only field goal of the night.
“I got trapped there,” he admitted. “I turned and the ball just sort of came out of my hands.”
Correa smiled at the mention of the pass, knowing his coach probably doesn’t appreciate him putting too much spice in his game.
Butler, whose team fell to 1-2 in Division I action, visits Central High on Thursday.
“It’s early in the season,” he said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The Saints, 2-1 in league play, visit Cranston East on Thursday.
ST. RAPHAEL (66) – Zach Mays 0 0-0 0, Jordan Peguero 0 0-0 0, Cesar Mejia 6 5-7 18, Charles Correa 7 5-7 23, Trevor Vasey 4 2-2 14, Jazz Robinson 3 0-1 6, Davon Robertson 1 0-0 2, Terrence Manning 1 1-3 3; totals 20 13-20 66.
EAST PROVIDENCE (55) – Dana Andrade 3 2-3 8, Joe Carnevale 9 5-5 28, Nick Pacheco 1 0-0 3, Brian Poole 1 0-0 2, Derek Andreoli 4 0-0 9, Jawaan Lyles 0 1-2 1, Brendan Quigley 0 4-4 4; totals 18 12-14 55.
Halftime: SRA, 35-27.
Three-points field goals: SRA (9) – Vasey 4, Correa 4, Mejia 1. EP (7) – Carnevale 5, Pacheco 1, Andreoli 1.