PAWTUCKET — Tom “Saar” Sorrentine had heard whispers that PCD was pretty good, which in turn had the veteran St. Raphael mentor quite concerned heading into Thursday’s opening semifinal of the Dennis M. Lynch Memorial Tournament.
Tom Horvat, Alex Minetti and the rest of the Knights did little to ease Sorrentine’s worries as a strong push to the finish line enabled PCD to knock off St. Raphael 57-51 and advance to the title match for the second straight year. The tide turned in the Knights’ favor thanks to an 11-0 spurt that saw them go from six points down to up 51-46 with 3:25 remaining.
Forced to play catch-up against a Knights’ squad that had succeeded in catching fire, the Saints struggled as a Graham Lynch three-pointer with 1:51 remaining proved to be SRA’s lone basket inside the final seven minutes. Lynch’s trey cut PCD’s lead to 53-51, but the Knights got a clutch basket from Horvat with time winding down on the shot clock and two free throws to seal the deal.
PCD’s opponent in the Lynch finals also knows a thing or two about staging dramatic finishes. In the first game of the evening, Central Falls outlasted Woonsocket in overtime by a 61-57 count. The Warriors made only one shot from downtown in the game, but it was a big one as Elser Colindres nailed a three from the left wing with 22 seconds left in the extra session. The shot saw C.F. go from down one point to up 59-57.
Looking for the tie, the Villa Novans missed from close range. Two free throws by Julian Soares with 6.6 ticks left provided the Warriors with just enough breathing room to escape with a most satisfying victory.
The matchups for Saturday night are as follows: At 6 o’clock, two teams hailing from Division I-North will cross paths as SRA and Woonsocket will look to salvage something out of the annual two-day hoops event staged at the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket's Elson Branch gymnasium.
At around 7:45, PCD and Central Falls will square off for Lynch supremacy in 2013. The Warriors have captured the event twice in the 28 years the community has been paying homage to the onetime SRA hoops mentor with 2009 serving as the most recent occurrence. The Knights played in last year’s title contest.
Woonsocket enjoyed leads of 44-40 and 46-42 down the stretch before C.F.’s pressure defense resulted in a few timely scores and trips to the foul line. The biggest play in regulation came when the Novans turned the ball over at midcourt and Bradley Zeno flew in for a hoop that put CF up 52-51 with less than a remaining.
A free throw by Jeovon Fortes made it 52-52 with 42.4 seconds left. Both teams had chances to win the game in regulation, but to no avail.
The Warriors and Novans continued to stay close in the early stages of the four-minute overtime. A pull-up jumper by Randy Reyes gave Woonsocket a 57-56 lead with 30 seconds left. The advantage was short-lived as Colindres picked a fine time to connect from downtown.
Julian Soares finished with a game-best 24 points on 14-of-15 shooting from the foul line.
“We forced some turnovers and that saved us, especially at the end of regulation,” noted Central Falls head coach Brian Crookes about his team’s trapping scheme. “We needed to make the tempo ours."
Woonsocket, which was hurt repeatedly on the offensive glass, was led by 16 points from Elijah Vasquez.
Reyes finished with 13 points while Piotr Linek chipped in with 11.
“They wanted it more than my guys,” sighed Novans mentor Kyle Ivey-Jones. “Basically they had more opportunities to score in the half-court than we did.”
The Saints scored the first seven points on their way to jumping out to an 11-2 advantage. Thanks to some strong outside shooting from Minetti, the Knights chipped away to move within 32-27 at recess.
SRA senior Brian McParlin enjoyed a most productive first half, scoring 22 points on eight field goals, four coming from beyond the arc. The second half proved a different story as the creases that McParlin was able to find proved tough to locate. He finished with 24 points.
“We pretty much respected him more and found him sooner,” said PCD head coach Tom Sienkiewicz when asked about how his players succeeded in bottling up McParlin in the second stanza. “He shot the lights out in the first half.”
The Knights took their first lead in the second half on a three-ball by sophomore Joe McNamara, the sophomore’s make snapping a 46-all affair with 4:33 to go. Horvat (24 points, 10-of-10 at the charity stripe) and Minetti (15 points, four threes) shouldered much of the scoring load for PCD while McNamara came off the bench to score 10 points.
SRA’s depth was put to the test after senior big man Chris Luciano fouled out with 5:46 left. Sorrentine tried to find the piece to go with the rest of his starting lineup, but nothing seemed to work.
“Those guys aren’t ready yet,” said Sorrentine. “We’ve got a ways to go.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03