By ALEX SPONSELLER The CCRI men's basketball team has had a historic 2019-2020 season, finishing with the division's top seed and winning the District XXI Championship over Gateway last week. The district championship earned the Knights the 12th seed in
The CCRI men’s basketball team has had a historic 2019-2020 season, finishing with the division’s top seed and winning the District XXI Championship over Gateway last week.
The district championship earned the Knights the 12th seed in the NJCAA National Tournament which will be played in Rochester, Minnesota, and they will be squaring off against New York’s Richland in the first round.
CCRI cruised through the district playoffs, topping Holyoke, UConn Avery Point and Gateway. CCRI coach and Cranston native Rick Harris felt that a balanced attack and sound defense led the Knights to the dominant postseason.
“The kids are excited, they’re back to reality. We are ready. We have good guards, we’re a balanced team. We are not incredibly athletic but we like to run a good half court offense. Defense has been big for us the past few games, we have held our last three opponents to under 70 points which is unheard of. We won that tournament with our defense,” said Harris.
Although the Knights lost some key members of last year’s squad, they felt confident that they would compete for a district title and have a chance to reach the tournament once again.
“We lost some guys to start the season but we knew coming in that we had a lot of talent, that’s part of why I wanted to come back. With the talent we have, this is not surprising at all. It’s exciting, to leave here on a high note is great, but the goal is not done. I’m not here to be a division champ, I want to be a national champ,” said CCRI captain and Johnston native Dylan Durante.
Harris believes that teamwork and operating as a unit will be the key to making some noise in the national tourney.
“This was a long-term goal but everything needs to fall into place. We needed these guys to buy in and work as a team. You do your job, play to your strength, and that’s what we preach. We try to build on what they can do and hide their weaknesses,” said Harris, who also credited his sophomore captains for their leadership this year. “We rely on them a lot. Elijah Lewis, Jeremy Remigio, Dylan Durante, we rely on them. One of the things about this team is that we don’t have an alpha, we don’t have a Kobe Bryant. So we need to have good leaders since we don’t have one great one. We needed them to take control and they have. That has resonated with them.”
Despite heading into the first round as the underdog, Durante and company are confident that they have what it takes to make a run at a national title.
“We feel like we can go into Minnesota as the 12th seed and make some noise. We’re excited, we’re humble and we see this is a business trip,” said Durante. “We are looking to go do some damage and put Rhode Island on the map.”
The Knights squared off against Richland on Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the NJCAA National Tournament, but the results were not available at press time.