With a full slate of tough games to close out the season, the Cranston West boys’ basketball team needed to come up big last week. It didn’t start out well – the Falcons were blown out by La Salle last Monday.
But they turned it into a good week anyway.
West took care of business against Smithfield on Wednesday and Woonsocket on Friday, then added an extra dose of confidence to the mix with a non-league win over a strong East Boston team on Saturday.
The Falcons were scheduled to play St. Raphael on Monday but that game was postponed until Tuesday, with results unavailable at press time. West headed in with a 6-6 league record, feeling pretty good about where it stands.
“Thos were definitely games we had to win, and we did,” said head coach Jim Moretti. “At that point, getting to 6-6 is not bad. We’re right in the mix.”
The top 10 teams in the league will qualify for the Division I playoffs. West’s 6-6 record puts the team in a three-way tie for seventh. Three more teams are tied for 10th at 5-7.
That’s why last week was so crucial – the Falcons didn’t want to fall off the pace, especially when they were going against two-win Smithfield and one-win Woonsocket.
“You can’t get upset because you don’t get those games back,” Moretti said.
The Falcons headed into those games off their worst loss of the season. La Salle beat them 80-53, scoring significantly more points than any team has scored on West this season.
“We didn’t play well at all and they basically ran us out of the gym,” Moretti said. “We weren’t on our game and our defense wasn’t there, which is really the first time that’s happened all season.”
But the Falcons didn’t let the bad feeling linger. They hosted Smithfield on Wednesday and surged to 47 first-half points and a 22-point lead. They ended up cruising to a 78-59 victory.
“We explained what we needed to do,” Moretti said. “Smithfield and Woonsocket aren’t top teams, but they’ve been in every game. We just needed to attack them inside, and we did that. Especially against Smithfield, our big guys dominated. They had no answers for us.”
The big men led the charge, with Mike Rainone scoring 17, Tevin Goins tallying 16, Tom Santurri chipping in 11 and James Weaver adding eight.
On Friday, West traveled to Woonsocket and delivered another strong effort in a 67-41 victory. Tyler Fann broke out for 18 points, while Rainone and Goins scored 10 each. David Vespia had eight.
The Falcons then headed to CCRI on Saturday to take on East Boston as part of a full day of hoops at the Vin Cullen Fieldhouse. East Boston raced to an 11-2 lead, and with West playing its fourth game in six days, it looked like that start would define the game.
Instead, the Falcons responded with some of their best basketball of the season and roared to a 64-62 victory.
“That was a really pleasant surprise,” Moretti said. “They’re a good team and they took it to us. We got a little rattled, but the kids dug down deep. They didn’t want to lose.”
Goins had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead the charge for West, while Fann and Mike DeJesus both heated up from long range to score 11 points.
The Falcons are hoping that game can be a springboard – and they’ll need one as they hit the stretch run. Four of their final six games are against teams with winning records. After games against St. Raphael and Mt. Pleasant, West will close out the year with a second round of games in Division I-South, which shapes up as the toughest league in D-I. The last place team in the league, South Kingstown, is 5-7 and still firmly in the playoff mix.
“It looks our division is the division,” Moretti said. “Luck of the draw I guess. Every game is going to be important. We’ve got to beat a couple of teams that are ahead of us.”