CENTRAL FALLS — There was a buzz in the stands on Thursday night as Central Falls fans awaited the start of a Division II crossover game matching their North Division-leading Warriors with a 7-2 Tiverton team that is tied for first place in the East.
The Tigers quickly quieted the local crowd by storming out to a 23-5 lead midway through the first half en route to an 80-64 triumph.
“They’re good,” C.F. coach Brian Crookes conceded after the game. “I would put them up there with Rogers, West Warwick and Barrington as the best teams we have seen this season.”
Tiverton is led by 6-foot-3 senior Gunnar Bjoinson, a versatile player who is an accurate long-range shooter, can take it to the hoop, rebound and handle the ball against the press.
“Our goal was to make Gunnar work for his points,” Crookes said. “I think he was a little below his average tonight. (Bjoinson finished with 19 points.) He had to earn his points. And he did.
“The thing about Tiverton is they have an inside-outside game,” Crookes continued.
The coach was referring to 6-foot-4 forward Ben Bergandy, who added 18 points. Bergandy has legitimate post-up moves inside and can also shoot a medium-range jumper.
“Their guard, No. 5 (Ken Welchman) hurt us from outside,” Crookes continued. Welchman nailed a trio of three-pointers, usually after the Tigers had run their offense and found nothing inside against C.F.’s defense.
The Tigers possess a fourth option in junior guard Alex Rosa, who scored 11 points before leaving late in the first half with a serious finger injury that sent him to the hospital. Central Falls also lost Derrick Lopes with a cut to his face that earned him a visit to the emergency room.
Tiverton lost to Cumberland in its previous game when Bjoinson sat out the contest for personal reasons.
Central Falls, which fell to 5-5 in league play (one game ahead of 4-6 Cumberland), couldn’t find any offensive flow against Tiverton’s tenacious matchup zone defense. The Warriors generally were giving away three inches in each matchup on the floor. Tiverton put its size advantage to good use in denying any inside lanes to the Warriors, who often settled for outside shots if they didn’t turn the ball over.
“”Our offense stalled,” Crookes said. “You have to give credit to their defense but we just turned the ball over too many times.”
Crookes was pleased that his team played hard until the end of the game, actually outscoring Tiverton 40-38 in the second half.
“We played them pretty even after they got up by 15 points,” the coach said. “We just have to do a better job on defense to make sure teams don’t have those kind of spurts against us.”
Burly center Ryan Murray led C.F. with 14 points while Brian Collazo and Steven Vasquez added 10 points apiece.
C.F. visits Tolman on Tuesday in another crossover contest.
TIVERTON (80) – Ben Bergandy 7 4-7 18, Gunnar Bjoinson 6 5-6 19, Adam Carreiro 0 1-2 1, Matt Correia 0 3-4 3, Alex Cotton 2 4-4 8, Robert Kiser 1 2-4 4, Geoff McNalluy 1 1-2 3, Tyler Mulcahy 3 5-5 11, Kyle Vasconcelos 1 0-2 2, Ken Welchman 3 2-2 11; totals 24 27-38 80.
CENTRAL FALLS (64) – Emmett Dixon 4 0-2 9, Derrick Lopes 1 0-0 3, Clifton Johnson 2 2-2 6, Brian Collazo 3 2-3 10, Kevin Cleveland 1 0-0 2, Randy Vittini 1 0-0 2, Steven Vasquez 3 2-2 10, Jose Peraza 4 0-0 8, Ryan Murray 6 2-5 14; totals 25 8-14 64.
Halftime: Tiverton, 42-24.
Three-point field goals: Tiverton (5) – Bjoinson 2, Welchman 3. CF (6) – Dixon 1, Lopes 1, Collazo 2, Vasquez 2.