Sports editor emeritus
PAWTUCKET — Tom Sienkiewicz has been bringing his Providence Country Day basketball team to the Dennis M. Lynch Jr. Memorial Tournament for seven years without a championship – until Saturday night, that is.
“We finally got lucky,” the former Villanova University guard from the early 1980s joked after his Knights rolled to a 68-48 victory over Central Falls in the championship game, ending St. Raphael Academy’s three-year reign as tourney champ.
The tournament is played every year in honor of the late SRA coach Dennis Lynch Jr., whose widow Laura, son Dylan and brother Bill were among those in attendance. This was the 28th annual Lynch tourney and once again the Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket played the role of perfect host.
Luck had little to do with PCD’s triumph. The Knights led by seven points at halftime and opened up a 20-point lead in the second half before coasting home. Shooting guard Tom Horvat won MVP honors after knocking down 25 points in the title game.
The Knights had defeated SRA in the opening round while Central Falls edged Woonsocket. The Villa Novans came back to take third place with a 55-52 victory over the Saints in Saturday’s opener.
“We step up a notch when we play in this tournament,” Sienkiewicz said. His team competes in the Southeastern NE prep league. “I have some seniors who can steady our team on the floor. It means a lot to win this tournament. (SRA coach) Tom Sorrentine is one of the best coaches around. And we had our hands full with Central Falls.”
The Warriors, who went winless last season, got this year off to a great start in Thursday’s tourney opener with its win over Woonsocket, a Division I school. Coach Brian Crookes and his players then visited Tolman for a Division II contest on Friday night before completing their NBA-like schedule against PCD with their third game in 48 hours.
“We really didn’t press too much tonight because of our schedule,” Crookes admitted. “I saw a lot of positives from the kids in these three games. The effort is always there. PCD is such a good passing team and they have some shooters, too. We didn’t shoot the ball very well but I thought we ran our offense and got a lot of good looks. We just have to keep improving. We play against next Friday at Cumberland and will work hard in practice to fix some things.”
Julian Soares, who made the all-tourney team, led CF with 13 points. The Warriors fell behind 8-6 against PCD before going on an 8-0 run to take a 14-8 lead. Horvat then got going, hitting a jumper and a three-pointer to put the Knights back on top. Soares regained the lead for CF at 24-23 before PCD went ahead for good, taking a 36-29 lead into halftime.
After the Knights surged to a 56-35 advantage, CF made one more run, closing to 58-47 with four minutes left. Soares fouled out shortly thereafter and PCD closed the game with an 11-1 splurge.
Woonsocket and St. Raphael played a tight game in the consolation final. The game was tied at 52 with one minute left. Villa Novans center Piotr Linek blocked a shot and coach Kyle Ivey-Jones called timeout with 40 seconds left. Guard Elijah Vazquez drove the lane and dropped in a feathery shot for a 54-52 lead. The Saints rimmed out a three-pointer with three seconds left and Woonsocket guard Randy Reyes made one of two free throws to put the game on ice.
“We have three starters back from last year and seven players overall,” Ivey-Jones admitted. “There is good leadership on this team. We’re making smarter decisions. We boxed out a lot better today than we did against Central Falls on Thursday.”
SRA coach Tom Sorrentine faces a big challenge this year, molding an inexperienced roster into the kind of smart team he likes to put on the floor. The pieces are there. Sharp-shooter Brian McParlin finished with 17 points. Chris Luciano added 12 and Graham Lynch finished with nine.
“We have 10 new players this year,” Sorrentine said. “No starters back from last year. I thought we played better against Woonsocket than we did against PCD. These guys are working hard. They’re at the stage where they are thinking about what to do instead of just doing it. We’re still learning how to win games. It will come. We just need to keep getting better.”