NORTH KINGSTOWN—It’s the league that almost wasn’t.
For the better part of the last decade, every summer the Community College of Rhode Island has hosted a league for Rhode Island girls high school basketball programs to help them stay in shape and keep their skills honed during the offseason.
It was a tradition that was set to continue in 2013, but once former head coach Kate Lynch left the CCRI program in early June, with no one to run the league, the school pulled the plug just two weeks before play was set to begin.
With two gyms at his disposal, North Kingstown head coach Bob Simeone sent an e-mail out to the coaches of the CCRI league asking if he could get the court space, would they be interested in recreating the league at North Kingstown?
“I have to thank all the coaches,” Simeone said. “As soon as I sent the e-mail out saying, ‘If I can get the two gyms, are you interested?’ They all started jumping on board.”
With the help of North’s athletic department and the school department, as well as some additional effort from Barrington’s Steve Lenz and South Kingstown’s Joel Tuoni, Simeone was able to get six hours a night, twice a week on both of NK’s courts from the last week of June through August 1, as well as 11 different schools from the CCRI league to form a 12-team league for the girls this summer.
The total number of teams may have been cut in half, but the league would be playing, nonetheless.
“A lot of things lined up for us,” Tuoni said. “Fortunately, we had a little bit of this in the works just in case. Bob did a lot of the legwork as far as getting the insurance and the things that needed to be done to make it happen and there was enough interest.
“To get 12 teams going is good. The kids need to play, otherwise they probably wouldn’t play much basketball in the summer if we didn’t do this. …We really appreciate what Bob did.”
Despite the change in location, the summer league continues to be a place for continuing varsity players to stay sharp and start to become accustomed to new roles vacated by graduating players that they may be stepping into.
More importantly according to their coaches, it is a way of acclimating ninth grade players and players who spent time at the junior varsity level last winter to varsity level competition.
And so far, having hit the season’s midway point at the conclusion of last Thursday night’s games, the league lives on without missing a beat.
“I have to be honest with you, if you ask some of the coaches, not one coach has complained,” Simeone said. “There were some complaints up at CCRI the last couple of years, but everything seems to run smooth. They come in, one team provides scorer, one team provides the clock person, I pay for the refs.”
Tuesday night marked the beginning of the stretch drive towards the playoffs, which begin July 29, with six games and all 12 teams in action.
Rogers and Coventry B got the action started. It was a back-and-forth half over the first 20 minutes, with neither side able to grab any sort of considerable advantage. Following a basket and a foul as time expired in the half, the Oakers went to the break with a 14-11 lead.
It was a lead, however, that was short lived as Rogers came to life in the second half. A combination of pouring in 28 points in the half, as well as holding Coventry to just three points over the final 10 minutes helped the Vikings run away in the 39-29 victory, improving their record to 5-1 and keeping them tied at the top of the standings.
North Kingstown A, comprised mostly of the school’s varsity squad, came out firing and never looked back in game two. The Skippers opened their game against the Portsmouth/St. George’s co-op team on a 12-0 run and amassed a 28-6 lead by the half.
Portsmouth/St. George’s found a bit more of a scoring touch in the second half, but so did North, as they kept pace with Rogers for first place with the 58-13 win, the biggest of the night.
Barrington, hoping to put together run before the playoffs, used a suffocation defense to get their record back to .500 at 3-3 with a 33-15 win over Prout in game three, while St. Raphael’s posted a similar win over North Kingstown’s B squad in game four, 32-18, to stay in the three-way tie for first with NK A and Rogers.
Like Barrington before them, East Greenwich ran their record back to an even 3-3 in the fifth game of the evening, laying a hurt on Mt. Hope and leaving the Huskies still in search of their first win of the season.
It was a game that was over early as the Avengers staked themselves out to a 27-7 lead by the half. East, however, kept getting better as the night wore on and the shots kept pouring in for a 45-15 final, the second biggest margin of victory on the night.
As the night’s final game began, it looked as though South Kingstown would run away with the nightcap.
With an emphasis on defense early, Tuoni’s squad held their opponent off the scoreboard for nearly nine minutes before Coventry A broke the seal with a three pointer to make it 5-3. And once Coventry got rolling, it was a whole different ballgame.
It took a three pointer of their own with 18 seconds left in the half for SK to escape to the break with the lead, 17-15. That was before the Oakers then returned the favor in the second half, as they in turn held South scoreless for nearly the same span to open the second, going on a 14-0 run to take a 29-17 lead.
The Rebels made it a game through as a 10-1 run got SK within three with 30 second to play but Coventry managed to keep possession over the final 30 seconds to hold on for their fourth win of the summer.