North Smithfield senior forward Peter Keenan (33) sets up to fire a three-pointer over MSC defenders Nolan Hayward (34) and Eric Abruzzi. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
WOONSOCKET â€“ This definitely isnâ€™t the same North Smithfield High that rolled to a perfect 24-0 mark in Division III action last winter en route to the state championship.
It nevertheless is formidable, and it showed in the Northmenâ€™s 58-44 D-III season-opening victory at Mount St. Charles on Friday night.
Head coach T.J. Ciolfiâ€™s bunch took advantage of senior center Peter Keenanâ€™s â€śdouble-double,â€ť which included a game-high 21 points and 16 rebounds with seven blocks; and its defense, which caused the Mounties a pair of dismal droughts lasting a total of 12:27.
The Mountâ€™s shot selection had something to do with the loss, stated mentor Ray Leveille.
â€śWe just missed some shots,â€ť he sighed after his club fell to 0-2 (1-0 league). â€śWe had some good, high-percentage chances but didnâ€™t hit them. Weâ€™re a young team, and weâ€™re still trying to figure out what a good shot is as opposed to bad.
â€śWe only have three returning starters, and I think some guys are trying to do too much,â€ť he added. â€śThe statistics reveal that. Iâ€™m trying to get across to them that they need to play within themselves.â€ť
For North Smithfield, senior guard Jeremy Dobson manufactured 10 points, while senior co-captain Breno Pena closed with nine points and 13 boards. Senior forward Matt Lachance added six points.
Sophomore Alex Lataille paced the Mounties with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds (with a pair of blocks), and senior Nolan Hayward managed 10 points and three boards while junior Owen Murphy chipped in four points.
â€śWeâ€™re still trying to find where weâ€™re comfortable, in terms of spacing and defense and who should do what,â€ť Ciolfi noted later. â€śOur guys are trying to figure out their roles. Last year, when we won the title, they knew their roles from the first time I met them. This season, I have pieces who all need to learn how to play together.
â€śAs for Peter, heâ€™s the best player in the state; Iâ€™d say that to anyone,â€ť he added. â€śHeâ€™s a beast. During summer league, he dominated. Heâ€™s a man among boys.â€ť
After the Northmen raced to a quick 7-0 lead, MSC slowly battled back, slicing the deficit to 11-8 when Hayward turned a steal into a coast-to-coast layup with 11:21 remaining in the opening half. Over the next 6:18, however, Ciolfiâ€™s crew mustered a 17-0 run, courtesy in part to a pair of treys from Keenan and junior point Nick Cicerone, to gain a 28-8 advantage.
Haywardâ€™s running one-hander in the lane gave the Mount its first bucket in 7:27, but it sparked a flurry, as it outscored the visitors, 10-7, in the final 3:39 before the break.
Penaâ€™s layin off a theft pushed North Smithfieldâ€™s lead to 37-20 just 2:04 into the second half, but the Mounties fought back once more. Thanks to Ian Vesceraâ€™s free throw with 11:01 left, they trailed by a minute 40-30 count.
Over the next 6:09, the Northmen returned the favor, improving their cushion to 47-30 before Lataille canned a 16-foot jumper with 5:52 remaining. MSC later knifed the lead to 11 with 3:50 left, that after Latailleâ€™s baseline jumper, but Penaâ€™s baseline trifecta and Keenanâ€™s jumper with 1:22 remaining sealed the victory.
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