PAWTUCKET – Tom Sorrentine is still fitting together the pieces of the puzzle that is the St. Raphael Academy basketball team. And so far, “Saar” likes what he is seeing from his Saints, who improved to 4-1 in Division I with a 61-47 victory over Cranston West on Tuesday night.
The Saints, who led 35-15 late in the first half, overcame some sloppy passing with a tough defensive effort and strong work in the rebounding department from the front line of Trevor Vasey, Cesar Mejia, Davon Robertson and Benjamin Pillsbury.
Vasey finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Mejia added 17 points and eight rebounds. Robertson and Pillsbury both fouled out but moved some bodies around under the basket as the Saints showed a physical tenacity that is necessary to compete and win in Division I.
“We were kind of sloppy after we got that 20-point lead,” Sorrentine said after the game. “We had some chances to put them away and threw the ball away too many times.”
Cranston West, which fell to 3-2 in D-I with the loss, seemed dead in the water before scoring the final four points of the first half. The Falcons have a solid point guard in Bryan Yarce who forced the action in the second half, playing Saints point man Charles Correa to a standstill and even getting the measure of the flashy sophomore at times. Yarce netted 14 points, going 8-for-9 at the foul line.
“Yarce’s not really a good shooter,” Sorrentine said, “but he gets to the free throw. He was 35-for-40 at the line for the season before tonight’s game.”
Correa netted 11 points in the first half. Mejia had 10 of his points before intermission as SRA seemed to have the Falcons overmatched in the open floor, running their fast-break to gain several easy baskets.
Correa finished the game with 10 assists. His shot stopped falling in the second half, though, and Cranston West cut into its deficit, coming as close as 51-40 with 5:30 left in the game.
Robertson then managed his only basket of the night, hitting a baseline heave with time running out on the shot clock. The ball bounced three times on the rim before falling through the net as Robertson watched from the floor, where he had fallen after tossing up the off-balance prayer after reeling in an air ball by Correa.
The Falcons went on a 9-0 run at the end of the first half and into the first few minutes of the second half before Correa found Vasey for a layup off an inbounds pass to stop the bleeding. Vasey then posted up under the basket and laid in two points. Then the 6-foot-6 center grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball into the hoop for two more points and a 41-26 lead.
Pillsbury, a physical 6-foot-3 forward, tossed in a baby hook shot to make it 45-28. Mejia then stole the ball and began a fast break, feeding Correa under the hoop for a 47-28 lead with 9:06 left in the game.
“Every time I call on Pillsbury, he produces,” Sorrentine said. “When Davon got hurt early in the game against Cranston East, Benjamin came in and really played well.”
The Saints will need that kind of depth coming in off the bench. The fact that Pillsbury will hold his ground could come in handy, especially when the Saints visit a strong Central High team on Friday night.
Sorrentine will emphasize cutting down on the turnovers when his Saints visit Cambridge Rindge & Latin tonight as a tuneup for the Central game.
“It works out well for his because Cambridge plays the same kind of game as Central,” Sorrentine admitted. “They will pressure our ballhandlers. That’s what we need to work on.”