The North Kingstown boys basketball team worked its way past Cranston East 74-62 last Friday evening in the Division I Semifinals at East Greenwich High School.
The two teams would exchange blows in the first half, but the Skippers would take a 36-29 lead into the break. Despite East coming out firing in the second half and nearly stealing the momentum, the NK offense would surge in the final 10 minutes to wrap up the decisive victory and advance to the finals, where it would go on to edge out Bishop Hendricken 64-60.
NK was led by sharp shooter Ben Masse with 23 points, while center Dylan Poirier chipped in 20, and Clay Brochu 19. Brochu sank three 3-pointers in the win for the Skippers.
Cranston East coach Isaiah McDaniel felt that Poirier’s presence in the paint was the difference for the Skippers, who routinely shut down the Thunderbolts’ offense for stretches of the match.
“They did a nice job of keeping us from getting to the basket. Our biggest problem tonight though was that we gave them too many second chance baskets. Poirier played well tonight under the basket and really drove them, they played great team defense. They held us outside of the paint tonight and that really helped them,” said McDaniel.
The Skippers have been the best shooting team in the state this season. McDaniel felt that limiting the NK guards while also trying to match up with Poirier was a struggle in the loss.
“(Brochu) also played well, he played better in the second half. The problem that we had was that we weren’t sure which one to pick. Do we close out him in the corner or do we close out Poirier in the paint? They had had a nice little scheme there offensively and had success,” said McDaniel.
The Thunderbolts were led by Nelvin Blanco and Andrew Khvang, who each finished the night with 14 points scored. Paul Maguire also chipped in 13 points, while Aireus Raspberry added nine and Mac Hanley eight.
East came out hot in the second half and pieced together a small run to pull within a score at 54-53. However, Khvang exited the game with an injury, which helped slow down the Thunderbolt offense down the stretch.
“We went man to man and we had better ball movement in the second half, I thought our energy was better. It really hurt us when Andrew went down because once he went down, we lost a little offensive kick,” said McDaniel.
East will now shift its attention to the upcoming state tournament, which will kick off tonight when the Thunderbolts take on East Greenwich in Coventry. Remaining confident will be the key to success in the open state tournament, according to McDaniel.
“We’ll be alright,” said McDaniel. “The mindset heading into the state tournament is that we’re still one of the best teams in the state, we can compete with anybody. Our focus now is just getting back to work at practice, our ultimate goal is to win the state tournament.”