PAWTUCKET --- At halftime, this has all the makings of an impressive blowout victory by Shea over a quality Division II-South opponent.
But when the Raiders’ win over Westerly on Friday night was in the books, they found themselves holding on for a too-close-for-comfort triumph.
Ahead by a cool 20 points at the break, the visiting Bulldogs found a way to battle back and slice their deficit to five points with 5:06 to play and four on three occasions before busing home on the wrong end on a 77-74 verdict before a packed gym.
The crossover victory improves the Raiders’ record to 8-3 in Division II action, the same league mark as the Bulldogs, but the second half certainly left Shea coach Matt Pita with some gray hairs.
“We played a great first half and executed, but in the second half, (Westerly) put a lot of pressure on us and made us work for it,” added Pita, whose team ended up committing 17 of their 26 turnovers during the final 16 minutes. “And we worked for it. We found a way to win and we pulled it out.”
One of Shea’s goals heading into this game was to contain Westerly’s top scoring threat, junior guard Austin Cilley, who came into the night with a 22.8 points per game average, and they were successful for the most part, holding Cilley to just 10 points.
But the Raiders had zero answers for Cilley’s backcourt partner, senior Michael-Thomas Sciro, who torched the Raiders for a career-high 34 points, 30 coming in the second half and sparking the visitors’ attack.
“We managed to shut (Cilley) down, but (Sciro) had a great game,” added Pita. “I think he’s averaging only eight or nine points a game.”
Four players scored in double figures for the Raiders, who were led by senior sixth man Jordy Brito’s near triple-double of 22 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
Kenric Carter tossed in 16 points, Michael Neal added 12 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocked shots, and Tito DoCouto had 10 points.
The Raiders broke open a close game in the opening minutes with a 16-1 run that helped them grab a 21-8 lead with 6:57 to play in the first half and force the Bulldogs to burn a pair of timeouts.
Shea eventually went into the locker room with a 38-18 halftime lead, thanks to a pair of free throws by Eli Itkin with 35.4 seconds on the clock, but when the second half started, the Bulldogs quickly got layups by Cilley and Sciro to begin their comeback.
With 10:19 to play, they made it a 13-point game (50-37), and with 5:06 on the clock, a 12-2 run by the Bulldogs helped hack the Raiders’ once-insurmountable lead to five (61-56).
More than a minute later, Shea’s lead shrunk to four, but the Bulldogs couldn’t get closer than that, and Shea got some breathing room in the final minute on the front end of two free throws by Malcolm Rosa with 32.8 seconds to play and the putback of an offensive rebound by DoCouto 11 seconds later.
But Westerly refused to go away, and Sciro ended up drained a pair of three-point shots in the final 10 seconds to send his team home with their three-point loss.
The Raiders are back in action next Tuesday at 7 p.m. with a Blackstone Valley special against neighboring Cumberland at the Clippers’ Wellness Center.
WESTERLY (74): Michael-Thomas Sciro 11 8-12 34, Austin Cilley 2 5-5 10, Kaelan Rayner 0 0-0 0, Brandon Van Horn 1 0-0 2, Pat Nix 0 0-0 0, Robert Vocatura 9 0-0 19, Anthony Euwing 0 0-0 0, Zach Burbine 1 1-1 3, Robert Nardone 3 0-0 6. Totals: 27 14-18 74.
SHEA (77): Michael Neal 4 4-8 12, Christian Malave 0 1-2 1, Jordy Brito 8 5-6 22, Eli Itkin 1 2-2 4, Kenric Carter 7 1-2 16, Malcolm Rosa 2 3-6 8, Tito DoCouto 5 0-0 10, Nathan Lopes 0 0-0 0, Chris Mainville 1 0-0 2, Ellis Smith 0 2-2 2. Totals: 28 18-28 77.
Halftime: Shea, 38-18. Three-point field goals: Westerly 6 (Sciro 4, Cilley, Vocatura), Shea 3 (Brito, Carter, Rosa).