PROVIDENCE – There was some doubt to whether the West Warwick Wizards were even going to qualify for the R.I. State Basketball Tournament after their loss to Westerly in the Division II playoffs.
But a Barrington Eagles loss to Rogers in those same Division II playoffs opened up the door for the Wizards to get invited to the party and last night they took advantage.
Playing as the No. 13 seed, West Warwick advanced in the tournament with a 71-64 win over the No. 4 seed cross-town rival Coventry Oakers.
It was the second win this season for the Wizards over Coventry.
“I really would like to thank Cox Communications for showing that Coventry vs. North Kingstown game on Sunday night. We must have watched footage of that game seven times and it really helped us in our preparation for this game,” West Warwick head coach Richard Grenier. “We beat Coventry earlier this year, but that game wasn’t going to help us. Our scout team was outstanding mimicking the nuances of Coventry’s offense almost to a tee and all of that work I believe, helped us play great defense out there and limit them to 64 points. That was the key for us, our defense, and also our rebounding”
“They dominated us on the boards tonight. We couldn’t establish the tempo that we like to play because West Warwick was getting two and three looks at the basket many times on their end. We tried jumping with them instead of boxing out and it hurt us,” Coventry head coach Tom Campbell said.
West Warwick quickly wanted to establish its offense inside and jumped out to an early 9-3 lead at the 12:42 mark.
Chuck Dalton and Ryan Lawton combined for six of those points, all in the paint, while Coventry had three turnovers and settled for long distance shots against the Wizards’ man defense.
Reserve freshman center Sean Roles makes his presence felt with two blocks in a span of 40 seconds and added an intimidation factor for the Oakers as the momentum of the game turned in their favor.
“Roles gave us solid minutes and gave us a lift during that stretch. It was crucial for us to establish a presence in the paint to limit their looks inside and we did that for a while,” Campbell admitted.
Coventry found its rhythm midway through the half as Douglass sparks a 13-3 with two 3-pointers to give the Oakers its first lead of the game 15-14.
Both teams experienced tremendous difficulty finishing at the basket, with each side shooting below 40 percent from the floor.
“We were getting the looks we wanted they just weren’t falling for us,” West Warwick guard Max Motroni said. “Thankfully, we were able to go hard on the boards and I felt we dominated them inside and that helped us to stay in the game even though we were missing a lot of shots.”
In spite of the poor shooting, the magnitude of the game ignited the intensity.
The game saw six lead changes and three ties in the first half, neither team willing to relinquish an inch to the other.
The Oakers close the half on a 5-0 run and lead 30-26 at halftime.
Douglass lead Coventry with ten points, while point guard Nate Stitchell shot just 1-for-7, but garnered six assists.
John Morrison led the Wizards with seven points at intermission.
West Warwick totaled 14 offensive rebounds, but shot only 3-for-10 on those second opportunities for seven points.
“We were rushing our shots. We needed to slow down and take that extra second to gather and go up and in the second half we did a better job doing that,” Grenier said.
The beginning of the second half was action packed.
Each team traded blows, matching each other shot for shot.
Morrison and Lawton led the charge for the Wizards, scoring 16 of team’s first 23 points to begin the half.
Lawton, in fact, finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds as he seemingly controlled the action inside.
“Ryan Lawton had an outstanding game, he was huge. Without his effort we don’t win this game,” Motroni said.
“He played one of his best games of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I kept saying that defense and rebounding would be the key to us winning and he was excellent in providing that for us,” Grenier said.
The Wizards seemed to be in control up 51-46 at the 7:22 mark as Stitchell picked up his fourth foul and eventually fouled out at the 4:48 mark with Coventry down 57-50.
But Aaron Greenwood, who played a terrific game with 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, scored seven points to lead a spirited 9-2 run to cut the deficit to 60-59 with just over two minutes to play.
“You can never relax in a basketball game and that’s what we did when Nate fouled out and you saw them go on their run because of it,” Grenier said.
But a Morrison free throw and Motroni 15-foot jumper extends lead out to 63-59 with 1:39 left.
“I knew we needed a basket there and coach wanted the ball in my hands and once I got to my spot I felt confident that the shot was going in and it did,” Motroni said.
The Oakers clearly missed their playmaker Stitchell, especially Douglass, and struggled to find any offense outside of Greenwood to finish the game.
“Not having Nate definitely hurt us. I thought Sean Ledford did a great job running the team. We just didn’t make enough shots at the end and give West Warwick credit. But I’m proud of my guys and the effort they gave,” Campbell said.
WEST WARWICK 71
Kyle Brown 0-1 0-0 0; Max Motroni 5-16 8-12 19; John Morrison 4-15 3-6 14; Chuck Dalton 4-5 1-2 9; Ryan Lawton 8-17 2-5 19; Jerome Carpenter-Vargas 0-3 2-2 2; Shykeel Colon 1-4 0-1 3; Korey Clark 1-5 3-4 5; Cory Thibeault 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 23-66 19-32 71.
Nate Stitchell 3-11 1-2 7; Ryan Finnegan 1-2 2-2 4; Aaron Greenwood 6-12 9-11 22; Dylan Lincoln 2-10 2-2 7; Garrett Douglas 4-11 3-5 14; Doug Auger 1-2 0-0 3; Brendan Hayes 0-1 0-0 0; Brandon Sullivan 0-2 0-0 0; Sean Ledford 2-6 1-2 5; Matt Lebrun 0-0 0-0 0; Sean Roles 1-2 0-0 2. TOTALS 20-59 18-24.
Halftime: Coventry 30-26. 3-pointers: West Warwick 6-22 (Morrison 3-10, Motroni 1-5, Colon 1-4, Lawton 1-1, Carpenter-Vargas 0-1, Clark 0-1); Coventry: 6-21 (Douglas 3-7, Lincoln 1-5, Greenwood 1-3, Auger 1-2, Stitchell 0-3, Hayes 0-1). Rebounds: West Warwick 41 (Greenwood 14); Coventry 51 (20). Assists: West Warwick 12 (Dalton 5); Coventry 12 (Stitchell 7). Turnovers: West Warwick 16 (Motroni 6); Coventry 16 (Stitchell, Greenwood 4). Steals: West Warwick 8 (Clark 3); Coventry 10 (Stitchell 3). Blocks: West Warwick 1 (Colon); Coventry 7 (Roles 3). Total fouls: West Warwick 19; Coventry 25. Fouled out: Dalton, Stitchell, Auger. Technical fouls: Brown.