PAWTUCKET — Shea High played the role of the New York Jets on Tuesday night, using a strong defensive scheme to dominate first-place West Warwick High by an impressive 77-62 margin.
The Raiders, who came into the game with a 4-4 record in Division II-Central, turned the tables on the Wizards, who were 7-1 and leading the South coming into this contest.
“We had a plan,” Shea coach Matt Pita said after the game ended. “We really focused on their shooters, No. 11 (Max Motroni) and No. 20 (John Morrison). And we went after them on defense. Our kids were hungry tonight. They kept stealing the ball and scoring baskets in transition. When we are doing that, we can be a very good team.”
The Raiders suffocated West Warwick’s offense for most of the game, holding Motroni to 16 points and Morrison to 12. Shea expanded a 32-26 halftime lead into a 52-32 advantage with 9:55 left to break this game wide open.
The Raiders got 28 points from shooting guard Joh’lon Hazard and 18 more from junior guard Malik Moody. Point guard Jordy Brito ran the offense efficiently. Senior forwards Austin Silva (11 points) and Zach DePina (eight points) more than matched West Warwick’s taller front line, establishing a physical presence under the basket that discouraged the Wizards from driving to the basket.
“We lost to West Warwick on a shot at the buzzer the first time we played them,” Pita said, thinking back to a holiday tournament game last month. “Joh’lon brought a lot of energy to the game tonight, as only he can.”
West Warwick took an early 5-2 lead when Motroni drilled a three-pointer and Morrison hit a two from outside. When Silva fed Hazard for a layup off an inbounds play, the Raiders took a 6-5 lead. They never trailed the rest of the game, moving out to a 26-18 lead with 4:15 left in the first half when Silva made a strong move to the basket, parting the West Warwick defense with his commitment to reach the hoop.
West Warwick seemed to lack that kind of commitment from the time the Raiders established control of the game late in the first half. The Wizards trailed 32-22 before scoring the final four points before intermission. That spurt seemed to keep them in the game but Shea started the second half with an 11-0 scoring burst.
Hazard netted the first seven points of the second half, two baskets coming off steals. Silva and Moody then scored hoops to give the Raiders a 43-26 lead. Hazard drilled a three with 9:55 left for the 20-point lead and then stepped back and hit another three for a 55-32 lead.
The Wizards actually cut their deficit to 59-47 with 4:26 remaining. That’s when Moody drained a three to make it 62-47, effectively ending the competition for the night. West Warwick coach Richard Grenier emptied his bench with three minutes left while admonishing his starters for their lackluster effort.
Pita, who has the Raiders in contention for a playoff berth in his first season as head coach, showed his trademark composure on the bench, calmly talking to his players during timeouts, suggesting defensive strategies as his team listened attentively. It was a good night for the Raiders and their coach.
The reality of this victory will wear off quickly.
“We play Westerly on Thursday,” Pita said.
Westerly is 6-2 in Division II South and coming off a 56-54 loss to Lincoln.