The Cranston East Thunderbolts beat the Cranston West Falcons, 68-53, on Friday night at West.
’Bolts’ junior standout Aireus Raspberry poured in 18 points and Paul Maguire added nine. For the Falcons, Jared Olson, the sophomore guard, scored 18 and Nick Dionizio finished with seven.
East had a rocky start to the season, dropping three of its first four games, but since then, the team has won its last two in a row.
“Over the last week, we’ve practiced very hard and the pieces are really starting to come together,” East head coach Isaiah McDaniel said. “We had three tough losses to start the year by under seven points. So, that really got them in the right mindset to turn it up in practice a little bit and it’s starting to show. They’re sharing the basketball and we have a lot of pieces and they’re playing together as a team.”
One big contributor for East is Maguire, the team’s junior guard, who has moved up to a starting role this season and has helped the team keep up the tempo on both ends of the floor.
“He got some varsity minutes last year, but worked hard over the summer and he’s really stepped his game up,” McDaniel said.
West won the opening jump ball, but it was the ’Bolts that scored first when senior Isaiah Hinds buried a 3-ball and put East up, 3-0. Then, East junior Nelvin Blanco blocked a Cam Alves 3-point attempt, causing West to suffer a shot-clock violation.
Down the other end, Blanco made a layup and extended the East advantage to 5-0.
The Falcons’ first points came from junior guard Cameron Bissitt, who drilled a jumper, which pulled West within 7-2. After that, Alves hit a runner and pulled the Falcons within three.
Nonetheless, East responded to that with an 11-0 run, which started when junior Mack Hanley made a spin move in the paint before making a layup. The spurt also saw Maguire sink a pair of free throws plus a layup and a Raspberry 3-ball.
West stopped the run when senior guard Brett Traficante grabbed a defensive board and made an outlet pass down to sophomore forward Andrew Dionizio, who made a layup and got the Falcons within 18-6 with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half.
With 4:32 remaining in the half, junior Rayven DeOliveira drilled a 3-pointer and put the ’Bolts up, 27-13. With one minute left, Andrew Khvang, also a junior, nailed a 3-pointer, and then Blanco added a layup to give the ’Bolts a 38-19 edge heading into halftime.
Midway through the second half, East took its largest lead of the game when Raspberry swooshed a 3-pointer and put the ’Bolts up, 53-29.
With under five minutes to play, Olson buried a 3-ball and pulled the Falcons within 59-39. With less than three minutes to go, Nicholas Dionizio sank a couple of free throws, and then Caleb Harris hit a 3-ball and got West within 65-49.
After that, Bissitt drove to the basket and made the bucket plus the foul and got the Falcons within 13 with 1:34 remaining.
Cranston West first-year head coach Michael Monahan gave credit to the East coaching staff after his team’s loss.
“I just want to say hats off to the Cranston East staff,” Monahan said. “They have an outstanding program and they have two outstanding players in Raspberry and Blanco. Those guys are really good off the bounce. The game plan going into tonight was to try to stop those two guys. I thought in the second half we did a decent job. We played them fairly even in the second half, but in the end, I think we just had too big of a deficit in the first half to overcome.”
West, which lost its fifth straight to start the season, is in the midst of figuring it out.
“We’re trying to find our identity as a team and we’re improving every day and the attitude and effort has been outstanding thus far,” Monahan added. “So, we’ve just got to regroup in practice tomorrow and come back after Christmas and get true focus during our practices on defense and on offense.”
Both teams will return to action today for the Hank Orabone Holiday Classic, hosted by Cranston West.
East will take on East Greenwich at 1 p.m., and West is slated to oppose Wheeler at 5 p.m.