CUMBERLAND — Two nights earlier, the wrestlers from Cumberland High knocked off previously undefeated Bishop Hendricken, the friendly confides of the Wellness Center serving as the backdrop. Hoping to replicate some of that home cooking, the Cumberland boys’ hoops team played host to state contender North Providence on Friday night.
This time it was the visiting team enjoying a banner performance at the expense of the Blue & White. Behind a game-best 26 points on six 3-pointers from senior Austin Van Bemmelen, North Providence rolled to an 80-58 triumph over Cumberland, which earlier in the week clinched a berth in the open state tournament.
As a team the Cougars knocked down 13 treys with reserves Joel Diaz (11 points), Aaren Wallace (12 points) and Billy O’Neill (six points) combining to drain seven threes. North Providence played the game minus the services of key cog Rob Hazard, who was away due to personal reasons.
Despite the lopsided loss, Cumberland still sits in first place in Division II-North with three games remaining in the regular season.
Ben Bradley paced the Clippers (8-7) with 19 points while Dylan Boisclair poured in 16 points.
North Providence jumped all over the home team early, scoring the game’s first 11 points on its way to opening a 24-4 advantage at 8:56 of the opening half. Cumberland was held off the scoreboard the first 4:24 before Mitchell Baxter finally broke through with a layup.
“We came out flat,” underscored Cumberland head coach Garry Reedy. “As a team that’s the flattest we’ve come out all year.”
The Clippers compounded matters by turning the ball over 12 times in the opening half, a hefty sum that led to numerous 2-on-1 breaks for the Cougars, who will carry a six-game winning streak into next Tuesday’s game at Tolman.
“To get where we need to go, we need to play solid defense,” stated North Providence head coach Paul Rizzo. “We know we can score, but we’ve got to be able to stop people. Usually teams that can score are soft, but we want to have a defensive mentality where we can get some easy baskets.”
The first four minutes of the second half was merely a continuation of the opening 16 minutes as Van Bemmelen dialed up four threes, many of which came with a Clipper nowhere to be found. Cumberland was able to reduce the deficit to 19 points on a couple of occasions but was unable to draw any closer.
Reedy was more than ready to turn the page and talk about what lies ahead with Cumberland beginning with next Tuesday’s game at Ponaganset. Getting healthy seems like a good place to start as Friday saw the Clippers feature more players on the bench dressed in street clothes (five) than actual reserves (four).
“It looks like that we’ll have everyone back for the playoffs,” said Reedy, saying this without having to cross his fingers.