NORTH SMITHFIELD – North Smithfield’s fast-paced offense was clicking in the first half.
The second half, it was even better.
In a special “Pink Out For Cancer” 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.
“In the first half, they were able to slow us down,” North Smithfield coach T.J. Ciolfi said. “Once we played man, we started scoring the way we should be. We just picked up the tempo.”
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.
“If we win out, we would win Division III-North,” said Ciolfi, whose squad travels to Mount St. Charles on Wednesday. “I don’t think the school has won a division since 1973. That has been our goal. The only thing is it’s a tough stretch for us. We have to win three on the road to win the division.”
North Smithfield came out of the gates quickly in last night’s matchup, bolting to an 8-0 lead in the game’s first four minutes. The Northmen increased that cushion to a dozen points (20-8) with five minutes left until the half.
North Smithfield’s offense was fueled by the 6-foot-3 Walkow, who had 12 of his points in the half.
“He was really the only offense we had the first 10 minutes of the game,” Ciolfi said. “That’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.”
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 Northmen’s run-and-gun style being a major contributor.
“I was happy to be just down by six after the way we played the first half,” said Bronco coach Kevin Randall. “We missed a lot of easy shots. We had a lot of silly turnovers. Going into halftime, down six points, we’ll take that. They just came out in the second half, put a little run on us and we couldn’t recover.”
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.
“We broke their press well in the first half,” Randall said. “In 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.”
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 Davies’squad on Feb. 8.
Burrillville wraps up its season tonight against the first-place Panthers.
“We have had a lot of injuries,” Randall said. “Our 6-foot-4 freshman (Isaiah DeSilva) didn’t play in the Davies’ game. We got beat up on the boards pretty bad in that game. We got him back tonight and when he wasn’t in foul trouble he made a difference for us offensively. It is what it is. We are a young team. It’s been up and down all season. We’ll find a way to put it together against Johnston.”
North Smithfield will try and keep its momentum going tonight on the Mounties’ 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.
“I like how we are playing right now,” Ciolfi said. “We 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.”
North Smithfield raised $1,735 for the American Cancer Society in the game. “It was a very good night,” said N.S. Athletic Director Matt Tek. “It was a win all around for us.”