The Falcons, who play in Division II ousted Johnston (DIII) from the first round of the Cranston Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament on Friday night, beating the Panthers 47-42 at Cranston High School West.
Johnston’s Tom Zednik, a junior forward, scored a game-high 19 points while senior Jared Olson led the Falcons with 13 points. Both players earned the Most Valuable Player Award for their respective squads.
West senior forward Andrew Dionizio finished third overall in scoring with nine points.
“Andrew’s a little undersized at 6’1, but he’s very good offensively,” West head coach Mike Monahan said. “He’s very active. He’s a quick leaper. He’s very tough to guard because, although he plays in the post, he’s like a guard. He can take it coast-to-coast off the dribble, a very active rebounder, and he provides that veteran leadership down low.”
The tournament featured four teams with Cranston East and East Greenwich rounding out the field.
West jumped out to an early 6-0 advantage after Olson nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, the first from the left wing, and the second from the left corner, following a steal from junior guard Joe Ragosta. And that forced the Panthers to take an early timeout, just one minute into the contest.
“Jared shot the ball very well,” Monahan said. “He got us off real quick. He hit his first two shots for threes. That got us going. And then our defense carried us to victory. It was another game where we held teams in the 40’s, and that’s a goal of ours. But we have a lot to work on. It’s really early in the season.”
Johnston got on the scoreboard and drew within four when Anthony Tavares, a senior point guard, assisted inside to Zednik for a layup.
With 6:05 remaining in the opening half, West upped its advantage to six, at 17-11, after Lagosta buried a 3ball.
A minute and a half later, Cam Alves jumpstarted a 9-0 Falcons run when he picked the pocket of Johnston’s Justin Powell and made a breakaway layup. Next, Dionizio intercepted a pass and made a fast break layup before Massimo Feroce added a hook shot, and then a 3-point basket, which gave the Falcons their largest lead of the game at 26-11.
The Panthers answered that with a 7-0 run of their own. That spurt saw Jay Canton, a junior forward, dish to Powell, who finished with an alley-oop layup, and then Tavares added a bucket, and Derek Salvatore a 3-pointer, and all that pulled Johnston within 26-18 as the teams headed for halftime.
In the second half, West got off to another fast start after Alves assisted inside to Ethan Ryan, a junior forward, for an easy layup. Next, Feroce stole the ball and passed ahead to Olson for a breakaway layup, which put the Falcons on top 30-18 and forced the Panthers to call a timeout.
Then, the Falcons matched their largest lead of the game at 15 when Olson buried a 3-pointer with 13 minutes remaining.
But with 1:47 left, Johnston inched within 42-38 after Tavares sank a trey, and Zednik a put back and a layup.
Nonetheless, West’s Mike Paquette was fouled on the Falcons ensuing possession and the freshman guard buried both free throws, and then Alves added another one and pushed the Falcons margin to seven.
With under a minute to play, Johnston’s Zednik scored the final bucket of the game and it got the Panthers within 47-42.
“Johnston’s a great team,” Monahan concluded. “They’re going to be one of the top teams in Division III this year. They’ve got a veteran squad. They play with a lot of heart and a lot of intensity. In the second half, they had us on our heels. We got up in the first half, but in the second half, they really hit another gear, and then we were able to sustain it with our veteran leadership.”
With the victory, the Falcons improved to 3-0 overall on the season while the Panthers fell to 2-1.
The next night, however, West was dropped by East Greenwich 71-41 during the championship game.