Despite falling behind by nine points at halftime, the No. 9 Cranston West boys basketball team would travel to No. 8 Westerly and pull off the 66-54 upset in the Sweet 16 of the open state tournament.
The Falcons got some revenge with the win as well, having fallen to Westerly in the regular season.
“Well, when you face a team a second time you then know what they did to exploit your weaknesses. We couldn’t handle their pressure the first time,” said West coach Mike Monahan. “We stressed to our guards that we had to take care of the ball because we had some turnovers against them, we switched up our strategy to play zone, we wanted to show a different look. We were having success because we were getting stops, and steals and blocks and then converting on the other end.”
Cam Alves scored a career-high 16 points in the win, while Andrew Dionizio added 13 and both Jared Olson and Massimo Feroce 10. Jawarie Hamelin led Westerly with a game-high 25 points.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, their season was cut short the following day when the Rhode Island Interscholastic League cancelled the remainder of the tournament due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak in the state.
West was excited to get the win, but was also emotional knowing that its season was likely coming to an early end.
“Before the game, they were shattered knowing that this could be our last game. As a coaching staff, we had to focus the kids and tell them to just focus on the game and to put their best foot forward against Westerly,” said Monahan. “The kids were over the moon after the victory and we planned on practicing the following day. That day, though, is when everything unfolded. I still haven’t had the chance to address the team like you normally would at the end of the season.”
Although West’s season was cut short, it still enjoyed one of its best winters in recent years. The Falcons won just six games last season, but won 14 contests this time around including the open state tournament win.
Monahan credited his senior leaders for guiding the team to its turnaround this season.
“Those guys, Cam Alves, Jared Olson, Andrew Dionizio, Massimo Feroce, I’m just really proud of the way that those guys competed. It was just a fun group to coach. I knew going into the season that this team had a chance to compete for a state championship, not just a Division II championship. They reached all of their goals. I hope that is something they take away from this season into whatever they chose to do in life … they proved to themselves that they can set a goal and reach it,” said Monahan.
West is set to graduate half of its roster this spring, but Monahan believes that the culture that the departing seniors created will carry over into the next generation.
“He have some good returners and expect to have some kids from the freshman and JV teams step up. We want to build on what we established this year,” said Monahan. “This senior class, they were sophomores when our staff came in, and they are responsible for the rebuild. If it had not been for them buying into everything and our message, then we would not have had the success that we had this year.”
The Cranston West coaching staff would also like to thank the West community for its support this season.