SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Behold the skill set of Charles Correa.
St. Raphael’s talented point guard couldn’t have picked a better time to showcase his talents. With a berth in the finals of the open state tournament on the line, Correa did his part in SRA’s 66-48 quarterfinal win against North Providence Friday night at URI’s Ryan Center.
The win vaults the Saints into tonight’s 7:30 winner-take-all affair against Tiverton, which held on for a 77-74 double-overtime triumph against Central. St. Raphael will be seeking its first boys’ basketball championship since winning four straight between 1998-2002.
Correa stuffed the stat sheet as he recorded a game-high 25 points on eight field goals and 9-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. The SRA sophomore added nine assists, seven steals and six rounds. In short he was a one-man terror that North Providence simply could not slow down.
“I felt this was the most complete game he’s had all year. He didn’t have too many out-of-control plays. He was really calm, and on this stage, that tells you what kind of player he is,” said St. Raphael senior Trevor Vasey, who did his part with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“He’s tough,” said head coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine. “Sometimes he gets a little out of control because he’s a sophomore. He’s got to learn to play the game completely, but he’s a great player and athlete.”
Cesar Mejia also put forth a well-rounded effort for the Saints, contributing 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Austin Van Bemmelen finished with 18 points to lead North Providence.
The final score does not indicate how close this game was, as St. Raphael was ahead by just three (41-38) with 6:05 remaining. That’s when Correa took over on both ends of the floor. In one sequence he came up with a steal and finished off with a hard drive to the hoop, one that resulted in a 3-point play and a 47-38 SRA lead.
St. Raphael closed out the game on a 25-10 run, one that saw Correa leave an indelible mark. Before North Providence knew what had hit them, the Cougars trailed by a dozen (50-38) when head coach Paul Rizzo summoned for a timeout with 4:31 left.
“He made a couple of big steals that turned the game around in the end,” said Sorrentine about Correa. “He was finishing with his shots and getting to the line, which he wasn’t doing (against West Warwick on Monday night). He was throwing up shots so they wouldn’t get blocked. (Last night) he was drawing the foul.”
Sorrentine lauded his team’s defensive effort, calling it the best he’s seen all season. As a team SRA grabbed 40 rebounds, with Ben Pillsbury coming off the bench to pull down seven. The Saints never allowed the Cougars, the highest scoring team in the state, to get on roll, which could be traced to the added pressure that was placed on North Providence’s outside threats.
“Davon (Robertson) did a good job at the top. He extended them a little bit further than where they wanted to be,” said Sorrentine. “We’ve seen games when they’ve hit three, four in a row. They never really got into a groove.”
Said Vasey, “To hold them to 48 points is crazy.”
It took some time for the Saints and Cougars to get used to the idea of playing on a college court. The opening minutes saw each side take turns in tossing up airballs before one team settled down, as North Providence jumped out to an 18-10 lead. St. Raphael made a strong push right before halftime as a Mejia basket, coming as time expired, capped off a 14-4 run.
“I thought they were getting tired at the end of the first half when we started to get some fastbreak (opportunities) on them,” said Sorrentine, whose club led 24-22 at intermission. “It’s a new gym for everyone, so you’ve got to adjust a little quicker.”
North Providence briefly took the lead early in the second half before SRA scored 11 straight points to go up 35-27. Vasey served as the primary catalyst, hitting three straight baskets, including a turnaround jumper on the baseline. The Cougars responded with what turns out was their final answer as a 3-ball in the corner by Van Bemmelen gave his team a 38-37 lead with 8:29 remaining.
“Good, real good,” said Sorrentine with a hearty chuckle when asked how it felt to be back in the finals after being away for close to a decade.
NORTH PROVIDENCE (48): Greg Conroy 2 2-2 7, Austin Van Bemmelen 4 4-4 18, Domenick Coro 3 0-0 6, Mike Ferrante 4 1-3 9, Jake DiDomenico 4 1-2 9. Totals: 17 8-11 48.
ST. RAPHAEL (66): Jordan Peguero 1 0-0 2, Cesar Mejia 4 4-4 12, Charles Correa 8 9-9 25, Trevor Vasey 9 0-0 19, Terrence Manning 0 0-0 0, Ben Pillsbury 0 0-0 0, Jazz Robinson 0 0-1 0, Davon Robertson 4 0-0 8, Franklin Batista 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 13-14 66.
Halftime: SRA 24-22.
Three-point field goals: NP 3 (Austin Van Bemmelen 2, Greg Conroy); SRA 1 (Trevor Vasey).