COVENTRY – The Coventry Oakers made a statement to the rest of Division I last night.
With the Division I leading St. Raphael Academy Saints strolling into town, the Oakers demonstrated that they will have to be mentioned as a contender for the state crown with a convincing 92-72 victory over the Saints, the first in the school’s history and improved their record to 9-4 in league play.
With forward Aaron Greenwood fully recovered from a hand injury that left him sidelined for over a month, Coventry had its full repertoire of weapons offensively at its disposal, and resembled the team that earlier this season won on that road against North Kingstown and narrowly missed knocking of Bishop Hendricken.
Coventry attacked inside and out and left the Saints defense scrambling for answers throughout the evening as they surrendered a season high total in points allowed with 92.
“We’ve had some good wins, but to beat a team of this caliber this late in the season, I would say that this is our best win of the season,” admitted Coventry head coach Tom Campbell. “We are fighting for wins each time out and to get one of those eight seeds and qualify for the overall state tournament. This is the time of year you want to be playing at your best and this was a big win to have, no question.”
Junior guard Garret Douglass enjoyed his best night in an Oakers’ uniform with a season-high 34 points, including six three-pointers.
The sharp shooting lefty made his first three-point try in the early going and demoralized the Saints and their zone defenses with each make thereafter.
“Normally, I usually hit the first three-pointer I take and then miss the next one and get down on myself. That happened again tonight, but I shook it off and my teammates kept finding me and I was able to get hot,” said Douglass. “This was a big win for us. The Saints are one of the best in the state and we feel pretty good right now after beating them and hope to keep this going.”
“Garrett is a shooter and he was hot tonight. When he gets on a roll like that, the other guys look for him and his shooting gave the team a lift and it’s a great weapon for us to have,” added Campbell.
Douglass went for 17 first half points and helped the Oakers erase an early six point deficit at 14-8 and storm into halftime up nine points (38-29) after they ended the half on a 30-15 run.
His shooting also helped open up the floor for Greenwood (14 points), Nate Stitchell (17 points) and Dillon Lincoln (15 points) to operate offensively as each hit double figures in scoring.
“We’ve faced some adversity this season, falling behind in games, but I let the players work things out. I thought they were being more physical than we were and once we started matching that physicality down low, we got our game going and things fell into place,” explained Campbell. “I thought the best aspect about tonight, besides Garrett going off for 34, was that we had three other guys with about 15 points. When we have that balance and can spread the floor with our shooters, defensively, what do you do? That’s what happened tonight, we had great balance and they had a tough time getting out and defending us.”
Matters only got worse for the Saints in the second half.
Though they chopped the deficit to 43-39 with 13:22 remaining, their spirit was broken with Douglass’ fourth and fifth 3-pointers of the evening that pushed the advantage back up to double figures at 49-39.
Douglass’ hot hand ignited a 27-6 spurt and provided Coventry its biggest lead at 70-45 with six minutes remaining.
“With Aaron back and everybody healthy, the game has become easier for us. With Nate and Aaron penetrating, I can spot up and I like having them go inside and kick it out to me. As a shooter, it’s easier to spot up that way,” said Douglass.
The Saints would never cut the lead below double figures again as the Oakers were able to decelerate and wisely use up the clock to earn the win.
St. Raphael (11-5 overall, 10-3 league) will look to rebound from this loss with a date Wednesday against the seven-time state champion Bishop Hendricken Hawks, while Coventry (11-5 overall, 9-4 league) who has won eight of their last nine, will be in action at East Providence.
“I think it was a blessing in disguise when we had our injuries. It allowed other guys to step up and I believe we have a deeper team because of that and now that everyone is back we hope to continue to play good basketball,” said Campbell. “These games will all be tough, East Providence’s games have all been close this year, so we know that we have our work cut out for us.”