PAWTUCKET — Victims of two straight Division II-Central overtime losses, Shea High's players paid particularly close attention to head coach Matt Pita before facing league rival Tolman on Tuesday night.
“I just told the kids I wanted them to play hard … the basketball gods hadn't been really kind to us,” Pita said. “Our goal was to take care of the basketball; we've been averaging over 25-plus turnovers a game, and we wanted to keep it under 20 while executing to our ability and controlling the tempo.”
His kids more than listened. Their full-court pressure defense stymied the Tigers throughout the first session, when the visitors made 24 turnovers, and the Raiders took full advantage while plowing to a 72-39 triumph at “The Cage.”
Four athletes finished in double figures, including the “Armani” tandem of Baker and Luciano with 12 points, senior Alvin Semedo with 11 and junior Chris Mainville 10. Senior co-captain Eli Itkin finished with six points and a team-high 11 boards, while fellow captain Tito DoCouto chipped in eight points and nine rebounds; Luciano four assists; Mainville seven steals; and Semedo four thefts.
The lone double-figure scorer for Tolman: Senior center Jonathan Percy with 15, and senior co-captain Mamour Samb mustered nine points while sophomore Steven Otis notched seven.
All told, Shea – who improved to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in II-Central – forced Tolman into 35 turnovers, making only 17 of their own in this battle of winless league squads.
“I'm most pleased with the way we executed our game plan,” Pita noted afterward. “We preach in practice all the time to play smart basketball, and to know what to do in certain situations. (On Tuesday night), we excelled in situational basketball.”
With 1:57 gone after the opening tip, and after missing a previous jam, Percy drilled it home to knot the game at 2-2. It would be the last, as the Raiders rattled off an 11-0 flurry over the next 3:50 to take a 13-2 lead.
Highlighting the surge were Mainville's conventional three-point play, Semedo's short jumper and Itkin's 17-footer.
The Tigers immediately came back with a 5-0 flurry of its own on Keanu Perry's three-pointer and Percy's two free throws, to cut it to six (13-7). Pita's bunch, however, responded again, outscoring Tolman, 16-6, over the next five minutes.
After Luciano's layup was blocked but Percy was called for goaltending, Shea had cushioned its lead at 29-13 with 2:52 remaining, and went into the locker rooms at the break up, 37-20.
In the second half, the two rivals traded buckets, but DoCouto netted a bucket with 14:35 remaining, Lopes dropped a finger roll and Luciano canned back-to-back treys to extend the advantage to 49-22. All told, they had manufactured a 15-4 surge in a span of 5:34 following Baker's conventional three-point play with 9:01 left.
At the 4:48 mark, Semedo turned a steal into a layup, and – after being fouled – another three-point play to give the Raiders a 62-32 cushion. William DePina Gomes' trey with 3:30 remaining dropped the Tigers to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in league action.
Mentor Mike Kayata admitted he wasn't thrilled with the decision, even though he had to play without the help of senior co-captain/forward Brandon Dunlap (torn meniscus) and junior guard Napoleon Johnson (personal reasons).
See RAIDERS, page C3
“I didn't have my two starters, and Shea's a very athletic team, a good team,” he stated. “I knew they were going to rebound and play hard, and we prepared for Shea; we were ready. In the first half, they made all the easy shots, and we struggled to knock down buckets. We struggled against their pressure.
“Shea's a tough place to play,” he added. “It was Percy's first game, and we didn't have our point guard (Johnson), but we've got a lot of young guys who are playing varsity. They're going through a learning curve. I know our guys will get better with time. I'm proud of them. They're working really hard and they;'re listening. From what I see, we're only going to get better.”