NORTH SMITHFIELD â€“ North Smithfieldâ€™s fast-paced offense was clicking in the first half.
The second half, it was even better.
In a special â€śPink Out For Cancerâ€ť contest Tuesday night, the Northmen were lights out after the break, cruising to an eventual 65-31 win over Burrillville at the Lovett Gymasium.
Senior Matt Walkow netted a game-best 22 points and senior Carlos Guzman and sophomore Peter Keenan each scored 13 points.
Primarily playing a zone defense before the break, the Northmen went into the locker room holding a six-point lead. Switching to man-to-man in the latter half, N.S. opened up with a 13-2 surge and never looked back.
â€śIn the first half, they were able to slow us down,â€ť North Smithfield coach T.J. Ciolfi said. â€śOnce we played man, we started scoring the way we should be. We just picked up the tempo.â€ť
The victory by the playoff-bound Northmen is their fourth in the last five league games and puts them at 10-5 and second place in Division III-North, just a game behind division-leader Johnston (11-4). Burrillville fell to 6-11 and was officially eliminated from the postseason with the setback.
â€śIf we win out, we would win Division III-North,â€ť said Ciolfi, whose squad travels to Mount St. Charles on Wednesday. â€śI donâ€™t think the school has won a division since 1973. That has been our goal. The only thing is itâ€™s a tough stretch for us. We have to win three on the road to win the division.â€ť
North Smithfield came out of the gates quickly in last nightâ€™s matchup, bolting to an 8-0 lead in the gameâ€™s first four minutes. The Northmen increased that cushion to a dozen points (20-8) with five minutes left until the half.
North Smithfieldâ€™s offense was fueled by the 6-foot-3 Walkow, who had 12 of his points in the half.
â€śHe was really the only offense we had the first 10 minutes of the game,â€ť Ciolfi said. â€śThatâ€™s something we have been trying to make a conscience effort of getting him going early. If he can get in the 20s, and he has scored consistently in the 20s, we have a better chance of winning the game.â€ť
Burrillville managed to get itself back into the tilt, finishing the half with a 10-4 run that was bookended by a pair of 3-pointers from junior Matt Morse (six points). The Broncos committed a fair share of turnovers in the first half with the Northmenâ€™s run-and-gun style being a major contributor.
â€śI was happy to be just down by six after the way we played the first half,â€ť said Bronco coach Kevin Randall. â€śWe missed a lot of easy shots. We had a lot of silly turnovers. Going into halftime, down six points, weâ€™ll take that. They just came out in the second half, put a little run on us and we couldnâ€™t recover.â€ť
North Smithfield restored order in the first minute of the second half with junior Dan Jordan and Guzman each banging a 3-pointer and Keenan hitting a free throw. The Northmen held the Broncos to just two points for nearly the first six minutes of the half.
Walkow and Keenan, who each ripped down more than a dozen rebounds, controlled the boards and, along with the rest of their teammates, did the same offensively.
â€śWe broke their press well in the first half,â€ť Randall said. â€śIn the second half, we just fell apart and that was the difference in the game. Their two big guys are just so good down low.â€ť
Burrillville, a young squad with only one senior, has struggled somewhat with its consistency. The Broncos lost to the Prout School, which is unbeaten in III-South, by just two points (41-39) on Feb. 6 and then dropped a 76-68 overtime decision to a two-win Daviesâ€™squad on Feb. 8.
Burrillville wraps up its season tonight against the first-place Panthers.
â€śWe have had a lot of injuries,â€ť Randall said. â€śOur 6-foot-4 freshman (Isaiah DeSilva) didnâ€™t play in the Daviesâ€™ game. We got beat up on the boards pretty bad in that game. We got him back tonight and when he wasnâ€™t in foul trouble he made a difference for us offensively. It is what it is. We are a young team. Itâ€™s been up and down all season. Weâ€™ll find a way to put it together against Johnston.â€ť
North Smithfield will try and keep its momentum going tonight on the Mountiesâ€™ home court. The Northmen finish up the league season at Toll Gate on Thursday and at Johnston next Tuesday, a game that could determine the league titlist.
â€śI like how we are playing right now,â€ť Ciolfi said. â€śWe have three games left and if we can win all three that puts us in a good spot for the state tournament. I am glad that we are in the tournament and glad the way the guys are playing right now. It seems like right now we are really clicking.â€ť
North Smithfield raised $1,735 for the American Cancer Society in the game. â€śIt was a very good night,â€ť said N.S. Athletic Director Matt Tek. â€śIt was a win all around for us.â€ť