NORTH SMITHFIELD — Head coach T.J. Ciolfi claimed to be less than ecstatic after his North Smithfield High squad, with a notable edge in height, allowed under-.500 Warwick Vets to manufacture a 9-0 run at the end of the initial half to slice a 13-point deficit to 39-33.
He had wanted more efficient board work from senior tri-captain/center Matt Walkow and junior forward Peter Keenan.
“Matt and Pete got an earful at intermission,” Ciolfi confessed. “I felt that with our size advantage, we should’ve started the game with more rebounds.”
The two big men obliged – and then some. Walkow scored 12 of his 22 team-high points in the final stanza and chipped in 17 rebounds, while Keenan contributed 16 points and 12 boards, as the Northmen sailed to an 82-69 triumph before about 150 fans at the Lovett Memorial Gym on Tuesday night.
With the victory, Ciolfi and Co. remained unbeaten at 18-0 overall and 15-0 in Division III play. The Hurricanes fell to 4-14 and 4-11 in III-West.
For Warwick Vets, junior swing Will Remak mustered 30 points while draining a whopping eight three-pointers, and diminutive sophomore Josh Muto, who’s approximately 5-4, added another 17.
Immediately after the break, Scott Camara landed a trey to slice the deficit to 39-36, but North Smithfield assembled a 12-2 flurry over the next 3:27 to gain a 51-38 cushion. Walkow provided four of those points in succession, while Keenan and senior tri-captain Walker Strick knocked down a couple of more buckets off of turnovers.
Vets did knife into the Northmen lead, cutting it to 53-45 after Daniel Greaves canned a short jumper with 9:56 left in regulation, though it didn’t get any closer. When fellow senior Daniel Jordan dropped a pair from the charity stripe at the 8:07 mark, and they came at a critical time.
Just two seconds before, an official whistled a technical foul against the ‘Canes’ Greaves, and Keenan missed two foul shots and L’Heureux went 1-for-2. Still, L’Heureux canned a three-pointer to make it 64-51, and the Northmen went on an 8-5 run over the next 2:11 to virtually seal the verdict.
Remak’s final three-pointer with 1:14 left sliced into the lead once more at 74-66, but Strick’s four-footer and Jordan’s two free throws with 39.2 ticks destroyed the ‘Canes’ hopes for a miracle win.
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“We played sloppy the last three minutes, but Strick’s steal (of Remak) down the stretch, that was our biggest defensive play of the night,” Ciolfi stated. “But we scored 82, and that’s more than some D-I teams score.
“It was the rebounding; we did a good job in the second half. I mean, Walkow looked like a man possessed when we went on that (early) run. Without it, we’d have been in trouble … We gave up 11 threes, and whenever you do that, you usually lose. I guess it’s a good sign we won by double figures.”