PAWTUCKET — St. Raphael Academy head coach Tom Sorrentine closed his post-game interview this way: “We've had trouble with size inside all year long, and that's got to change.”
Minutes before, Sorrentine watched as Woonsocket High big men Gare Lyles and Piotr Linek tore down rebound after rebound in their Division I-North clash at Alumni Hall on Thursday night.
In the end, however, the Saints overcame that height, utilized an 11-5 surge in the span of 6:59 late in the final stanza and garnered a 57-49 victory before about 150 fans.
Senior co-captain Charles Correa manufactured a tilt-high 24 points (including five treys, all in the first half), eight steals, six assists and four rebounds, while classmate Jordan Peguero closed with 14 points, three boards and a pair each of thefts and assists and sophomore center Alex Zhoa five points but a squad-leading 12 rebounds.
Sophomore Graham Lynch chipped in nine points, and junior forward Chris Luciano didn't score, but recorded a half-dozen boards as SRA improved to 9-12 overall and 6-10 in league play.
“It wasn't easy, but we'll take it,” Sorrentine noted later. “We had played them twice before, so we know each other pretty well, but I still say we've got to get it going on the boards. I thought we had trouble with their big guys inside. Zhoa was our leading rebounder, but the kids Lyles and Linek were really tough on the glass.
“I would've liked for us to score more down low; I mean, Charles (Correa) got most of his points on the outside, and Jordan (Peguero) had his in transition, but we've got to get better there,” he added. “We've got two tough games coming up.”
He was referring to facing Mount Pleasant on the road at 7 p.m., Monday, and La Salle at Alumni Hall 48 hours later.
“Those are two games we need to have to stay alive for a playoff berth,” Sorrentine said. “Even if we win both, we're going to need some help to make the post-season.”
At the start of the second half, after it had taken a 36-26 advantage into the break, St. Raphael registered an 8-0 run in the span of 2:56 to snatch a 46-31 cushion, and it looked as if Woonsocket's evening had come to an end.
Lynch had drained a trey at the 11:50 mark to put his squad up 15, but the 'Novans immediately recovered. Blaine Desimpelaere canned a trey, Lyles hit a finger-roll, then a one-handed putback and a pretty reverse layup, with 7:51 remaining to slice the deficit to 46-40.
In that time, the Saints had several opportunities to score, but failed on all, in part because of Woonsocket's length under the basket.
In fact, all told, mentor Kyle Ivey-Jones' club blanked Sorrentine's crew for 4:59, and that lasted until Zhoa netted a one-hand “bunny” with 6:51 left.
From that bucket to the 54.1 mark, SRA outscored the 'Novans, 11-5, and made the score 57-45 on Correa's driving layin.
Woonsocket (now 3-18 overall, 1-16 league) actually had a 4-3 lead after Randy Reyes dropped a short jumper only 2:32 after the opening tip, but the Saints rallied for the next 10, closing on Peguero's seven-foot, baseline jumper 2:10 later. That gave the hosts a 13-4 advantage.
The 'Novans, however, pulled back into it, cutting the SRA edge to three twice, the first time on Lyles' conventional three-point play to make it 15-12, and the second when Billy Northrup drained a layup off a steal with 8:14 left.
The two squads virtually traded baskets after that, but Correa's final “three-ball” with 8.3 seconds left gave the Saints the edge at 36-26 entering intermission.
SRA forced Woonsocket into 28 turnovers, including 16 in the opening session, but made 18 itself.
“We just have to improve on the inside if we want to beat Mount Pleasant and La Salle,” Sorrentine said. “We also need to do a better job of rebounding on both sides.”