PROVIDENCE — Sunday wasn’t a great day for Pawtucket High School basketball fans who headed to Rhode Island College’s Murray Center to watch their public school teams, Division II champions Shea and Tolman, take the field for their Elite Eight matches in the RIIL Open Tournament.
Luck ran out for the 3rd-seeded Raiders in their afternoon game as they fell to sixth-seeded Division II rivals Rogers 51- 49, while the 7th-seeded Tigers faced the second-seeded Division I Classic Champion later that night and suffered a 63-46 loss.
In the D-II tournament, the Raiders sank the Vikings, 65-51, in the semifinals, then with a bit of guts and luck, they outscored Burrillville, 39-38, to become the D-II champions. While things played out against the Broncos, the story was a little different against Rogers again, especially when they relied on their three-point shots.
“We were freezing,” said Shea head coach Stephen DeMeo, whose team also went 6 for 17 from the free throw line, while the Vikings were 8 for 14. “I think we were 3 for 12 (three-point shooting). We probably better get in, and we were trying to tell the guys to get in and go to the foul line.
“And we did a much better job in the second half,” he continued. “The third quarter was ours, and the fourth quarter was like a heavyweight fight, and (Rogers) got the last punch.”
The Raiders held a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, and after the Vikings took a 28-24 halftime lead, the two teams found themselves tied 39-39 after three quarters of Game.
Shea and Rogers continued the battle for the lead in the final quarter, but after the Raiders took a 47-46 lead on a layup from senior center Isaac Ogutuga, the Vikings came back with the next four points to take a 50-47 lead with 1:13 left in the game.
On a steal and a violation, the ball returned to the Raiders, who called a timeout with 57.2 seconds left. They executed the play they had planned, as Ogutuga collected the ball through the middle of junior striker Malik Matanmi for the dunk.
Rogers then made it a two-point game on a free throw from senior guard Bryan Robar, but missed the second, and when Shea senior guard Enrique Sosa went down with the rebound, the Raiders called another timeout. .
“(In timeout), we were supposed to put him in the middle, get Isaac in and cut both wings to the basket,” DeMeo said. “It worked on Malik’s dunk because they were invading Isaac in the middle, so that guy could have snuck out the back door.”
But the Raiders kicked the ball out of bounds and they were forced to foul the Vikings to stop the clock. The Vikings then missed the start of their 1-and-1, and when Matanmi got the rebound, there were 10.5 seconds left on the clock and time for a final play.
As the Raiders passed the ball to each other, the Vikings defense got stronger and came away with a steal, and time ran out on the Raiders’ attempt to force overtime.
“It’s basketball,” DeMeo said. “Sometimes you’re the winner, and sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way.”
Senior guard Darian Piker, who entered the fourth quarter with three fouls, led the Vikings with 16 points and had two clutch three-pointers in the final quarter.
“These are all people failing in their responsibilities,” DeMeo said of his defense. “When we faced (Rogers) last week (in semi-final D-II), someone was on (Piker) all the time. Tonight, those three or four times we left it open, it got converted.
Matanmi led the Raiders offensively with 14 points. Senior guard Joey Reyes Serrano and Sosa each scored nine points, Ogutuga won eight and senior guard Elijah Evora scored seven.
“I’m just proud to have dated these guys,” DeMeo said. “I love these guys.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, had their hands full with Classical, who took a 20-10 lead after the first quarter and a 31-21 lead at halftime. After three quarters, the lead of the Violettes increased to 20 points, 52-32.
While both teams were tough defensively, the Purple had a height advantage over Tolman, so blocked shots and turnovers were in Classical’s favor, and the Purple managed to land most of their shots in traffic.
“The strategy, and I’m not quite sure it worked, was to get (Classic) out of the fast break because they’re really athletic and really physical,” Tolman’s head coach admitted, Bill Coughlin. “We thought if we slowed them down a bit we might have a chance to shock the state, but to (Classical’s) credit they played well tonight.”
Three Tolman players scored in double figures, as sophomore forward Isaiah Gois led the way with 17 points, senior guard Jalin Baptista scored 12 and senior guard Maarten Lopes scored 11.
“It’s not lack of effort,” Coughlin said of the loss. “They work hard, it’s a pleasure to train them and they fought hard, but at the end of the day it was a good team that we played and it’s a credit to them.”
Tolman has four senior starters leaving after this year, along with a few others on the roster.
“I’m really grateful for this group of seniors,” Coughlin said. “It made coming to practice every day a pleasure. It’s a great group. »
In their Sweet 16 clash last week in Pawtucket, Shea took a 69-53 victory over 14th seed Chariho thanks to a night of 21 points from Ogutuga and 17 from Evora, and Tolman beat the 10th seed, D-III champion. Mount Hope, 65-56.
The Tigers, who won the D-II regular season title, had been upset by Burrillville in the D-II quarterfinals, 49-42, so they were happy to keep playing basketball.
“We all felt bad after losing to Burrillville, but giving these kids one more chance to hang out, have a time and make memories is a nice silver lining on a night like tonight,” said Coughlin said.
The Final Four takes place at URI’s Ryan Center on Saturday, with Rogers and Classical on the field at 4 p.m. and top seed La Salle Academy and 4th seed Bishop Hendriken face off at 6 a.m. The championship game will take place the following night at 6 p.m.