COVENTRY - Moral victories are typically not reserved for teams getting set to make a postseason run and yet, the Oakers were largely willing to accept one on Tuesday following their loss to the Skippers.
A packed gym, a halftime lead and a fired up bench were nearly enough to lift Coventry to a Senior Night upset against defending D-I champion North Kingstown, but in the end, the visitors pulled away down the stretch for a 53-45 victory.
“This is the way we’ve got to play,” Oaker head coach Jim Moretti said, proud of his team’s effort in their final home game of the season, despite the result. “We played hard, we worked hard on defense and we just have to take it from there. We’re going to take some positives away from this.”
Coventry (7-10) led by as many as nine points in the opening half (20-11), taking a slim 22-21 advantage with them into the break. A tight second half, one that featured four lead changes as well as an 8-0 run by the home team, fizzled in the final minutes as NK closed out the night on an 8-3 run to improve to 15-1 on the year.
BJ Begones led the way in the losing effort with a team-high 12 points, while Nick Fuentes had 10.
“They gotta believe in themselves and some games, they take games off,” Moretti said, Tuesday night’s game definitely not one that they “took off.”
“A win would have been nice, but I’ll take the positives,” their coach went on to say.
The Oakers, having already secured a spot for themselves in the playoffs following last week’s win against Central, close out the regular season on the road against Smithfield.
From there, they will look to carry their late-season momentum into the playoffs and possibly surprise some teams with a run.
“I hope so. It depends on who we play, obviously. It’s all about match-ups,” said Moretti.
For the Skippers, their run of success continued on Tuesday night, but not without its fair share of struggles.
“First half, we relied a lot on the three. We’ve got four guys on this team that can shoot the three,” head coach Aaron Thomas said. Unfortunately for NK, those shots were not falling, thanks in part to strong defense from the Oakers.
“Coventry played kind of a unique defense, gave us something to think about. Guys would get the open three, but couldn’t hit them,” Thomas said, his team going just 1-for-13 from beyond the arc in the opening half.
“It was our worst shooting night of the year from three-point land,” he said.
And yet, his team trailed by just a single point at the break, very much capable of turning the direction of the game around in the second half, which is exactly what they did.
Clay Brochu, the team’s leading scorer, averaging nearly 19 points a night, was held to just 10 on Tuesday, the same point total as Geoff Coyne.
It was Caleb Wagner, whose team-high 12 points served as an unexpected surprise on a night won in unconventional fashion by the Skippers.
“At halftime, we talked about attacking the basket. I thought Wagner had his best game as an NK athlete,” Thomas said, praising his leading scorer.
Owen Moynihan also contributed significantly, posting 8 points for the Skippers to help avoid the upset.
“[Moynihan] went in, gave us major minutes and took it to the basket. He did a nice job,” said Thomas. “Other guys stepped up. All the guys have to step up. When you’re a playoff team, you have to do that. We did the right things down the stretch to win, but we have to keep getting better.”
NK has two games remaining in the regular season, beginning tonight at home against Smithfield before they closing on the road at Central next Monday.
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick