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Defending Division III champion Northmen win league hoops opener

December 21, 2013

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 – This definitely isn’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 Northmen’s 58-44 D-III season-opening victory at Mount St. Charles on Friday night.

Head coach T.J. Ciolfi’s bunch took advantage of senior center Peter Keenan’s “double-double,” 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 Mount’s shot selection had something to do with the loss, stated mentor Ray Leveille.

“We just missed some shots,” he sighed after his club fell to 0-2 (1-0 league). “We had some good, high-percentage chances but didn’t hit them. We’re a young team, and we’re still trying to figure out what a good shot is as opposed to bad.

“We only have three returning starters, and I think some guys are trying to do too much,” he added. “The statistics reveal that. I’m trying to get across to them that they need to play within themselves.”

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.

“We’re still trying to find where we’re comfortable, in terms of spacing and defense and who should do what,” Ciolfi noted later. “Our 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.

“As for Peter, he’s the best player in the state; I’d say that to anyone,” he added. “He’s a beast. During summer league, he dominated. He’s a man among boys.”

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, Ciolfi’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.

Hayward’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.

Pena’s layin off a theft pushed North Smithfield’s lead to 37-20 just 2:04 into the second half, but the Mounties fought back once more. Thanks to Ian Vescera’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 Lataille’s baseline jumper, but Pena’s baseline trifecta and Keenan’s jumper with 1:22 remaining sealed the victory.

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