CENTRAL FALLS — Just a minute before he and his troops began walking toward the door for a celebratory bus ride home, Cumberland High head coach Gary Reedy was told that this Division II-North clash against host Central Falls High ended with a combined 45 personal fouls and 39 turnovers.
“I'm not surprised,” Reedy answered. “You know what? We survived, that's it. It certainly wasn't pretty, and there was a whole lot of sloppy play, but I think that's how they wanted it to go. They wanted it sloppy and we wanted it to be more disciplined. There was no cadence to this game at all. It was a free-for-all, a boxing match, grueling, but we were able to come out on top.”
Thanks to junior guard and co-captain Bed Bradley calmly netting six free throws down the stretch, the Clippers not only escaped the boisterous CFHS gymnasium with a 68-61 victory, but also clinched the II-North title with an 11-7 league mark (14-9 overall).
Reedy estimated his squad would be seeded between Nos. 16 and 18 when the R.I. Open Tournament begins Friday night.
Bradley led all scorers with 18 points, and also contributed five assists and three steals, while junior swing Dylan Boisclair finished with a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) and front-court mate Ben Proctor seven points and eight boards.
Mitch Baxter, another junior, closed with 16 points.
For the Warriors, who would have earned a share of the II-North crown with a win, fell to 9-9 league and 9-13 overall.
Senior tri-captain and forward Steven Vazquez – the reigning state indoor high jump champion – manufactured 13 points, as did classmate Ryan Murray, who added eight rebounds. Sophomore Julian Soares came off the bench to notch 10, while junior Brandon Canuto mustered nine points.
The Clippers assembled a 14-3 flurry in a span of 5:21 midway through the first half to turn a 15-14 deficit into a 28-18 cushion. Central Falls, however, battled back, outscoring Cumberland 9-4 in the final 4:48 to enter halftime behind, 34-28.
The Clippers actually scored the first four points of the second stanza to take a 10-point lead, but – slowly – CF crawled back via two huge Vazquez treys. When Soares nailed an off-balance one-hander in the lane with 11:53 remaining, the Warriors managed a 41-41 deadlock, and even took the lead at 45-43 with 9:46 on the clock.
Five more times in the next six minutes, the score was tied, but a Baxter baseline jumper and Bradley trey with 4:34 left gave Cumberland a 58-53 advantage. The Warriors again clawed back, slicing it to 60-59 on a Vazquez foul shot with 72 ticks remaining.
But Bradley sank those six free throws, allowing the Clippers to escape with the triumph.
“What a fun game to be a part of; both teams fought tooth-and-nail, but I have to be proud of my guys for having the guts to stay in it and take it to the end,” said Central Falls mentor Brian Crookes. “We had a good look with about a minute to go, but the shot just fell off the rim, and that would've made it a one-point game.
“I thought the key was their free-throw shooting,” he added. “All told, they were 23-30 (73.3 percent), and that's clutch.”
Crookes stated he didn't know where his team would be seeded for the upcoming open state tourney, but estimated it to be No. 23 or 24.
“We'll definitely be on the road for our first game, but that doesn't bother me,” he grinned. “We've played much better in other gyms.”