EAST PROVIDENCE – After a game of twists and turns galore, head coach Alex Butler wouldn't say he was thrilled after his East Providence High squad had registered a 74-64 Division I-Central victory over gamey Central High on Wednesday night.
He also didn't downplay it.
“The key thing for us is we've been working so hard on our zone defense in practice, we wanted to see it work,” he noted as the triumph pushed the Townies back to .500 overall (7-7), and left them at 5-6 in league play. “We wanted to be in attack mode from the wing to the baseline to the block, and we did that well here.
“Scoring 74 points, for us, is like scoring 120 for other teams, and allowing 64 is a lot for us as well,” he added. “Normally, we average giving up 52-53, but a lot of that came from Jerrelle.”
He was speaking of Knights' junior phenom Jerrelle Washington, who easily led all scorers on this night with 33 points and another 10 steals. Junior guards Wayne McKinney and Marcus Mitchell each tallied 13 as Central fell to 2-9 overall, 2-8 in league play.
Junior Charlie Brown paced E.P. with a team-high 23 points, not to mention six assists and four thefts, while senior guard/forward John Vaughn contributed a “double-double” (20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) and classmate Jashaun Bennett 16 points, four steals and an assist.
Still, each time it seemed the Townies had the win secured, the Knights battled back to slice their deficits. On the final occasion, sophomore Zakiel Morla dropped a one-handed jumper with 6:51 remaining in regulation to cut it to 55-51.
See TOWNIES, page C6
But Vaughn converted a conventional three-point play 38 ticks later, and that sparked a 15-7 run over the next 5:49 to close it out. Highlights included Brown's pull-up eight-footer, Justin Andrade's short jumper, Vaughn's 14-footer and then his pretty tip-in off a missed Brown one-hand floater in the lane.
That last bucket gave E.P. a 70-58 cushion with 1:02 left.
The Townies ran out to a 14-6 advantage in the initial 5:26, with Brown scoring nine of those points, but McKinney's trey broke the momentum, though it was short-lived. Butler's bunch immediately assembled a 9-0 flurry in the span of just 1:34 (six points on turnovers) to lift E.P. to a 23-9 lead.
Central, though, responded with 7:54 remaining when Washington canned a pair of free throws, and that ignited a 20-10 surge over the next 5:21. Mitchell's three-point bomb and three consecutive foul shots by McKinney brought the deficit to 33-29.
Again, the hosts rallied with a Brown 10-footer and Ra'Kwon Jordan's putback with eight ticks left before the break, but McKinney's 38-foot bomb at the buzzer put the Knights back into it at 37-32.
Butler and Co. scored the first seven points of the final session to go up, 44-32, but Central took control again, fighting back to cut it to 48-44 with 11:23 remaining on Washington's layup off a steal. Just over a minute later, Washington hit one from the charity stripe to make it 48-45.
All that did was set up the Townies' late-game heroics.
“Jerrelle is an All-State player; he plays at a controlled pace and gets to where he wants on the floor almost all the time,” Butler stated. “He's a shot-maker and a game-breaker. When you make a mistake, he'll make you pay. That's the difference between a good high school player and a great one.”
Perhaps that's why E.P. closed with 22 turnovers, and the Knights 18?
“That's what I told the kids at halftime, that half of their first-half points came on turnovers, and some of those were dead-ball turnovers, where we threw the ball out of bounds on soft passes,” Butler said. “That's something we've done all season. We'll go through stretches that are impressive, and people are, like, 'Wow!' We'll be up eight to 10 points, or more, but then we'll fall on our faces with more miscues or silly fouls.
“This is a microcosm of our season; we get a double-digit lead, but then it evaporates,” he continued. “But we'll take the win. Central extended the floor, and I thought sometimes maybe overextended it, and that allowed us at times to attack the basket.”