PAWTUCKET – There were coaches from North Kingstown and Bishop Hendricken sitting in the stands to view Monday’s Division I crossover between Woonsocket and St. Raphael. No doubt they came to see Charles Correa, Cesar Mejia and Trevor Vasey and the rest of SRA’s starting five, but the coaches were probably just as likely to jot down notes pertaining to Jordan Peguero, Ben Pillsbury and Franklin Batista.
On a night in which the usual cast of characters endured a rare off night, SRA’s reserves came up huge in a 66-50 triumph at the Wellness Center. Peguero led the bench brigade with a team-best 14 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists while Pillsbury netted his first double-double of the season (10 points, 10 assists). Batista, normally Correa’s understudy at point guard, chipped in with six points and three rebounds.
The win allows the Saints to maintain their grip on first place in I-East at 8-2. The Villa Novans, who came into game looking to play the role of spoiler, drop to 1-9 in I-North. Jarome Robinson came off the bench to toss in a game-high 17 points for Woonsocket.
“He had a better second half. He had five turnovers at halftime and didn’t have any in the second half,” said Woonsocket head coach Kyle Ivey-Jones about Robinson. “He had a couple of drives and got a couple of buckets to fall, so that always helps out your confidence.”
What Peguero, Pillsbury and Batista provided for SRA was far more impactful. St. Raphael held a 17-12 lead at the 7:43 mark of the first half when veteran head coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine decided to pull the plug on his starting unit and have them take a seat. In went SRA’s second string, which wasted little time in turning a close game into a romp.
“We weren’t firing on all cylinders and were playing too laid back,” said Sorrentine. “I decided to put those guys (meaning Peguero, Pillsbury, etc.) just to shake things up. Those guys just took off and played.”
Did they ever, as SRA’s bench players ended the opening half on a 24-10 run. Peguero and Pillsbury took turns finishing at the rim while defensively the second unit held Woonsocket to just two field goals. It all added up to the Saints being up by a comfortable margin at intermission, 41-22.
“That whole second unit played well,” stated Sorrentine matter-of-factly. “I didn’t plan on going (almost eight minutes) with those guys. I wanted to see if they were going to pick up the intensity because there wasn’t any out there. They did and I stayed with them because they were playing hard.”
Ivey-Jones chose to view what SRA’s second unit did to his Woonsocket club in a different light. “I saw it as (Sorrentine) was resting his guys and we didn’t handle their press at all in the first half. Truthfully if we had handled their press a little bit better, we would have had a better chance of pulling this game out.”
A degree of normalcy returned to start the second half as Sorrentine chose to bring back his starters. The unit continued to struggle and slowly watched as their once commanding lead was cut down to 10 (54-44) after Robinson converted a 3-point play with 6:48 remaining. Woonsocket had a chance to cut it to single digits after Correa had the ball go off his hands right in front of Sorrentine, but the Novans came up empty offensively, then watched the Saints rattle off 10 quick points to restore order at 64-44 with 3:29 left.
While the play of SRA's main guys was obviously a source of concern afterwards – Mejia was the only starter to crack double figures with 11 points – there has to be some comfort knowing that the bench can hold the fort. The second unit figures to see more action with games against South Kingstown (tonight) and North Kingstown (Tuesday) on tap.
“We’ve come back (today) and play without a day of practice, which we definitely need,” said Sorrentine. “In the long run (going with the bench players for such an extended period of time) might be good and save some legs. But it should have been (the starters) playing and then I could get them out. It wasn’t like they took the game over and then I put my second group in. We definitely have some guys who can come in and step up, though.”
WOONSOCKET (50): Kodie Spearman 1 0-0 2, Andreas Brackett 4 2-4 10, Edwin Jones 2 1-2 6, Kory Lawrence 0 1-2 1, Jarome Robinson 5 6-9 17, Cody L’Heureux 2 0-0 6, Josh Houle 0 0-0 0, Flavio Barros 3 2-2 8, Brandon Rainville 0 0-0 0, Brian Cahill 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 12-19 50.
ST. RAPHAEL (66): Newon Sendolo 0 0-0 0, Jordan Peguero 7 0-0 14, Cesar Mejia 4 3-5 11, Trevor Vasey 3 0-0 6, Davon Robertson 2 0-0 4, Charles Correa 3 2-2 8, Terrence Manning 2 3-4 7, Zach Mays 0 0-0 0, Franklin Batista 2 2-2 6, Austin Hill 0 0-0 0, Ben Pillsbury 5 0-0 10. Totals: 28 10-13 66.
Halftime: SRA 41-22.
Three-point field goals: W 4 (Cody L’Heureux 2, Jarome Robinson, Edwin Jones).
JV: SRA 56-40.