COVENTRY - Riding a wave of success, including most recently, a 61-38 win over the Blue Wave of Hope High School, the Coventry boys basketball team was put to the test on Wednesday night at home against a talented squad from Woonsocket.
The Novans, last year’s state finalists, may be sporting a largely new roster in 2019/20, but were every bit the thorn in Coventry’s side on Wednesday, handing the Oakers a 65-59 defeat at C. Arthur Flori Gymnasium behind steady play and solid rebounding.
“We looked at this like a big game and so we approached it like a big game because both teams were 4-3,” Woonsocket coach TJ Ciolfi said of his team’s mindset going into play.
“We’re trying to stay in that range where we can get a home game in the tournament, so I thought we played with a lot of effort overall, definitely,” he said.
Ousmane Kourouma led the way for the now 5-3 Novans with 19 points with Jayvonn Botehlo adding 12 of his own. Marcus Harmon’s point total matched his jersey number (10) while Justus McLaurin posted nine in the winning effort as Woonsocket was able to escape with the win despite being outscored 32-30 in the second half and missing a number of potential game-sealing free throws down the stretch. As a team, Woonsocket was just 8’-for-22 from the free throw line, though their counterparts were not much better, going just 7-of-14.
Jayden Voelker and BJ Begones each put up 15 points for the Oakers (4-4) in the loss, while Nick Fuentes was limited to 10 points, which for Ciolfi, was a victory for his team.
“The way we defended Fuentes. It was pretty much Justus McLauren and Jared Downing that were charged with that,” he said, crediting those tasked with slowing the senior guard. “He had 10 points, but those were a hard 10,” Ciolfi said. “That’s a kid that can go off and get them 25, 30 points, so that to me, was the key to the game.”
Woonsocket built a 19-11 lead for themselves midway through the opening half before Voelker helped spark one of several runs on Coventry’s end, all of which wound up falling short.
“We didn’t play as a team tonight. We made runs when we had to, but we just didn’t step up in key spots,” Oaker head coach Jim Moretti said, his team seeing their winning streak snapped at three in a row.
Voelker, quiet through the first eight minutes of play, suddenly found success from three-point territory down the stretch of the opening half, hitting three shots in succession from beyond the arc to pull Coventry to within a single point at 23-22.
The visitors did not break though, closing the half on a 12-5 run to take a 35-27 lead into the locker room.
Each side opened second half play by hitting a three-pointer with Begones hitting his first of two on the night only to have Harmon answer right back.
Coventry pulled to within four at 44-40, only to see Woonsocket extend the lead back to a dozen points a short time later in what was proving to be an ongoing theme for the Oakers, one that saw them get close but never close enough.
Voelker, once again quiet through an extended stretch of play, sank his fourth three-pointer of the night with 5:20 remaining, making it 58-50, while a Fuentes layup made it a two-possession game less than a minute later, but that would prove to be as close as Coventry got. McLaurin sank a three moments later, which helped make up for the free throws his teammates were largely unable to hit in the final minutes, keeping Coventry in contention.
“Unfortunately tonight we kind of self-destructed with early foul trouble,” Moretti said going back to lineup changes he was forced to make, which also included an injured Aaron Smith ineligible to get in on the action.
It will not get any easier for the Oakers in the coming days, as they are set to host Hendricken tomorrow night before hitting the road to take on Mt. Pleasant next Tuesday.
“We’ll see what happens,” Moretti said of the next two games.
The Novans are able to use the next several days to rest up and get ready for a Wednesday meeting at home against Smithfield scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick