By JON BAKER
PAWTUCKET – Despite cruising to a relatively easy 64-44 victory over Woonsocket High in the opening semifinal of the 27th annual Dennis M Lynch Jr. Memorial Basketball Tournament on Thursday night, St. Raphael Academy still needs to fine-tune every segment of its game.
Al least that's what veteran mentor Tom Sorrentine had to say after the contest, held at the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket's Elson Branch gymnasium.
“We need a lot of work, that's for sure,” Sorrentine offered later. “Offensively, we didn't run very good sets, and – defensively – the kids didn't work as hard as I had hoped. There were a lot of things we wanted to do, but we didn't even come close to accomplishing most of those goals.”
The Saints snared the win, in essence, due to double-figure outings by sophomore forward Quian Yun (“Alex”) Zhoa, who contributed a team-high 16 points, not to mention 10 rebounds; classmate and swing Graham Lynch, who drained four three-pointers en route to 14 points; junior John Cooney (10 points, four assists); and senior guard Jordan Peguero (10 points).
Senior standout Charles Correa – bidding to become the first player in tourney history to win three straight Most Valuable Player awards, provided only five points, but also mustered eight assists on the night for the Saints. They, by the way, will face Providence Country Day in the championship tilt at this same site at 7:45 p.m., Saturday.
For the Villa Novans, who looked sluggish at best in the opening eight minutes, committing 16 first-half turnovers, senior Luis Garcia led the charge with a game-high 20 points, though no one else came close to posting double-digit numbers. Senior Anthony Delgado finished with seven points, classmate Jamaine Pachequin six and sophomore Gare Lyles four points and a club-high eight boards.
Senior Piotr Linek didn't score but chipped in five rebounds, while junior Blaine Desimpalaere added three points and three assists.
“Luis is by far the quickest guy on the team, but we need to know how to be quick and take good shots, as opposed to being quick and taking bad shots,” noted Woonsocket head coach Kyle Ivey-Jones, whose club closed with 25 turnovers. “We had four practices earlier this week; we didn't execute things we've been taught. For what we know already, we should've been able to execute them better than we did.”
SRA took advantage of three miscues in the first 61 seconds, allowing it to garner a 6-0 cushion; it did so on a Zhoa layin, a Peguero putback and Peguero's conversion of another turnover. Garcia dropped a 17-footer to slice that deficit to 6-2, but the Saints went on a 14-4 run in the span of four minutes to snag a 20-6 cushion, the last bucket coming on a Zhoa putback off a steal with 10:09 left in the initial half.
A Desimpalaere trey at the 8:18 mark pulled Woonsocket back to within eight (20-12), but the Saints surged again, a Zhoa three-pointer igniting a 15-8 flurry through the rest of the stanza.
In fact, with 4:15 remaining, junior Chris Luciano canned a 12-footer to make it 32-18, and Sorrentine's crew – with help from a 16-foot Lynch jumper with 9.1 ticks left – gave the Pawtucketers a commanding 37-21 cushion at intermission.
“We came out and started playing OK; we had pretty good rhythm going, but then the whole thing stopped,” Sorrentine said. “We weren't turning the ball over, and they were. We were taking pretty good advantage of those opportunities.”
Zhoa needed only 13 seconds to give the Saints a 39-21 lead at the start of the second, but Garcia nailed a reverse layup, Lyles hit a free throw and Garcia dropped four consecutive buckets, including three on the suddenly-sloppy Saints' turnovers, in the span of 1:04 to cut the Woonsocket deficit to seven (39-32) with 11:38 to play in regulation.
“In the second half, we got some more turnovers, but – unlike the first half – we didn't turn them into anything,” Sorrentine stated. “They'd turn it over, and we'd give it right back. At that point, I called three timeouts in a row because our guys weren't playing a lick of defense.
“I think they came in (the locker room) at halftime and thought, 'We've got it made,'” he added. “That's despite the fact I had told them, 'They will come out and make a run, trust me.' I asked them to continue making a run at them before they do, and we'll be OK, but they evidently didn't listen.”
Just 20 seconds after the 'Novans sliced it to 39-32, Correa netted his lone trey, and Cooney's 12-foot floater with 8:06 left pushed the advantage back to 50-34. Cooney added a “3-ball” and a stop-and-pop jumper en route to a 55-34 lead, the Saints' largest of the tilt.
“I thought Lynch, who came in off the bench, was our best points guy, and Jordan (Peguero) was out there hustling, but – like I said – we have a lot of work to do before (the) league (season) starts.”
Central Falls will battle Woonsocket in the consolation contest at 6 p.m., Saturday.