Sports editor emeritus
PAWTUCKET — “Good game, eh?” veteran official Frank Iannetta said with a smile as he stood in front of the scorer’s table with one minute left in Monday night’s Division I contest between St. Raphael Academy and South Kingstown.
The Saints were clinging to a 47-46 lead at the time in one of those typically competitive high school games that seem to regularly occur at the Dennis Lynch Jr. Memorial Court. As Iannetta joked with the scorer’s table personnel, Saints coach Tom Sorrentine spoke to his team, trying to draw up a play for his best shooter, Graham Lynch.
The Saints came out of the huddle. Point guard Alex Holloway penetrated, then passed across South Kingstown’s zone defense. The ball soon landed in the hands of Lynch, who had time to sight in his corner three-ball before swishing it for a 50-46 lead. The Saints would hang on for a 51-48 victory, moving them to 2-0 in Division I action so far this season.
“We showed some life tonight,” Sorrentine said while looking over his stat sheet. “We fought for everything in this game. Not like the other night (in a non-league loss to Wheeler School). We had more energy tonight.”
Lynch would finish with 14 points, 12 of them coming on three-pointers. Center Christian Luciano couldn’t get his inside shots to fall and settled for 11 points. Still, he played a big role under the boards, along with the very active and athletic forward Steven Toetee, who defines the type of energy Sorrentine insists upon getting from his team.
The Saints are trying to develop an identity as they plow through their December schedule. The coach is using just about his entire roster, often subbing in three players at a time. He calls one of his platoons the “bushwhackers” because Manny Leake, Trevante Jones and Alcino Aviles-Soares utilize their speed and energy to pressure ballhandlers not quite ready for this destructive defensive trio.
Sorrentine tossed his “bushwhackers” into the game with the score tied at 38. Aviles-Soares fed Toetee for a basket. South Kingstown couldn’t advance the ball to midcourt before losing it to the bushwhackers, who quickly got the ball back to Toetee for an easy bucket and a 42-38 lead with 6:30 left in the game.
S.K. would not go away. Point guard Joseph Sekator drained a three and then forward Daisean Fry got a shooter’s roll off the rim and put his team ahead, 43-42 with 5:30 remaining.
Following a series of turnovers and defensive stands, Graham Lynch then evoked memories of his father, Patrick, a pure shooter 30 years ago in the old SRA gym. Graham made his only two-point basket of the night after taking a pass from Brian McParlin and converting a short shot. Then he nailed a huge three for a 47-43 lead with 2:30 left in the game.
The Rebels came back once again as center Shynin Thomas popped in a short jumper. After the Saints missed at their end, S.K. had a chance to tie but Thomas got whistled for a foul. Undaunted, the Rebels forced a turnover. Fry got fouled and made one of two free throws to make it 47-46 with a minute left.
Here’s where Graham Lynch stuck a dagger in the Rebels’ hearts, draining another three from the left corner, not far from where dad was sitting. His splurge of eight points in four minutes had given the Saints a four-point lead.
Still, it wasn’t over. Sekator made a hoop with 25 seconds to go. Lynch missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Sekator did the same thing with 3.6 seconds left. Luciano made the front end of a 1-and-1 to set the final score, missed the second, and then Thomas’s full-court heave went over the backboard, ending a competitive game between two solid basketball teams still searching for offensive cohesion.
“We are trying to get contributions from everyone,” Sorrentine admitted, “because we don’t have that one guy who is going to dominate. If we play with this kind of energy, we’re going to be all right.”
The Saints, who made eight treys in this game, visit North Kingstown on Friday night.