PROVIDENCE — Tom “Saar” Sorrentine admits that it was by design that he honed in on West Warwick. After all, St. Raphael Academy had already played Coventry twice, which presented more than enough of a sample for the coach to devise an adequate game plan should his Saints cross paths with the Knotty Oakers for a third time.
Funny how West Warwick tossed those best laid plans out the window. Instead of drawing the Oakers, the Saints must now direct their focus on an unfamiliar foe with a spot in the Final Four hanging in the balance. Tonight at the Providence Career & Technical Academy Fieldhouse, SRA, seeded fifth, will face the 13th seeded Wizards, the upstarts of the new 16-team open state tournament, for an 8 o’clock quarterfinal clash.
West Warwick arrived at this point by knocking off Kent County neighbor Coventry, 71-64, late Friday night. Junior Ryan Lawton was instrumental for the Wizards, dominating both ends of the floor on his way to a 20-point, 19-rebound masterpiece.
Lawton certainly has the attention of Sorrentine, who will ask his collection of low post bodies – from starter Davon Robertson to reserve Ben Pillsbury – to try and slow down the 6-foot-4 manchild.
“He’s got extension and is really active inside,” was the scouting report Sorrentine offered on Lawton. “He’s going to be tough.”
SRA senior Trevor Vasey remarked following Friday’s 58-43 win over Westerly that he was hoping, along with probably the rest of his teammates, to see Coventry in the next round, a team that had beaten the Saints twice on its home floor. Asked if there was any sort of letdown from his players after finding out that West Warwick had eliminated Coventry, Sorrentine responded, “We figured that it was going to be Coventry, but our guys came into (Saturday’s practice) thinking that West Warwick is a good team. They were confirming what I was trying to tell them. We’re not going in thinking that we’re going to win, which is good.”
If there’s one element of this open tournament that presents a challenge for coaches, it’s trying to formulate a scheme for an opponent based on little or zero knowledge about them. Sorrentine admitted last week that while he learned a great deal about Westerly, which like West Warwick calls Division II home, by watching the Bulldogs’ quarterfinal contest in person at CCRI-Warwick, the veteran coach also saw fit to pick the brain of Tiverton’s Jerry Arcouette. SRA and Div. II Tiverton engaged in a stay-sharp scrimmage during the downtime both had in wake of being ousted from division play.
“I scouted West Warwick the whole time (Friday) whether they were going to win or lose,” said Sorrentine. “They’re a tough matchup because we really don’t know a lot about them.”
That said, Sorrentine is confident the Saints are over their late-season malaise (3-4 finish to league play) and are primed to press deeper.
“I think we’re getting over the hump and are starting to play better,” Sorrentine noted. “We got that lull out of our system. The layoff hurt us a little bit (in the early minutes of the Westerly contest) after not playing competitively for so long, but I think we’re ready to step it up right away.”
Said Vasey, “We feel like we’re better than a lot of teams, but we’ve got to show it. Sometimes we have a tendency to not come out hard, but we’ve got to show we’re the best team out there.”
The plan is for St. Raphael to arrive in time for the 6 p.m. game involving Cranston West and North Providence. Monday’s winners will square off in one of two semifinal games on the docket for Friday night at URI’s Ryan Center.