The Cranston East Thunderbolts beat the Wheeler Warriors, 65-60, on Friday night at Cranston High School West in the Hank Orabone Holiday Tournament title game.
Five players scored in double-figures for the ’Bolts. Junior Aireus Raspberry finished the contest with a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds and was awarded the Most Valuable Player Award for the tournament. Juniors Paul Maguire and Nelvin Blanco each scored 13 points, while Andrew Khvang, also a junior, and sophomore Ray Espinal each added 10 points.
For Wheeler, junior forward D.J. Smith scored 20 points, Elijah Ramos had 12 and Miles Fiore netted 11.
East’s Espinal and Wheeler’s Smith received All-Tournament Team honors.
’Bolts’ head coach Isaiah McDaniel was happy to see his team sharing the basketball and likes what he has seen out of his guards Maguire and Khvang.
“I think Paul’s really settling into the offense, into the rhythm of the team,” McDaniel said. “He’s confident in everything that he does. Last Tuesday against Coventry when his shot really wasn’t falling, he played defense very well in the second half, and I think that’s what kind of jump-started his offense and everything’s starting to flow for him now. He’s playing a full basketball game.”
“Andrew Khvang is the same,” McDaniel added. “He’s getting more comfortable in everything that he’s doing. He shoots the ball very well too. He handles the ball well and he’s another guy that can get to his spot. So, I’m happy with the rotation at the guard spot right now.”
East got on the board first when Espinal scored with a putback. Wheeler evened it at 2 when Smith hit a jumper off the glass.
The teams continued to exchange buckets after that until East went on a 9-0 run and took a 15-6 lead. That spurt started with Maguire scoring seven of the nine points, including a jumper, a 3-pointer and a steal and a fast break layup.
Wheeler stopped the bleeding when Smith nailed a jumper.
With 6:37 remaining in the first half, Raspberry banged a corner 3 and Luke Hogan sank a jumper and gave the ’Bolts a 24-10 advantage. Four and a half minutes later, Khvang heaved an outlet pass down to Blanco for a breakaway layup, which increased the ’Bolts’ lead to 33-17.
Smith assisted to Daniel Baruch for a corner 3 after that and pulled Wheeler within 33-20 heading into halftime.
East struck first in the second half when junior Maclean Hanley dished to Espinal for a layup. Then, Wheeler went on a 6-0 run and cut the deficit to nine after Fiore buried a 3-pointer, Ramos a layup, plus a bucket from Smith.
However, East put an end to the spurt when Maguire answered with a 3-pointer and gave the ’Bolts a 38-27 edge with 11:55 to play.
Wheeler finished the game on a 14-3 run on layups from Ramos and Albert Watkins, plus a pair of 3s from Tim Holt, which cut the deficit to five with 25 seconds remaining. However, Raspberry gave the ’Bolts some breathing room after scoring an offensive putback, and Blanco added a free throw, which sealed the deal for East.
“I’m not really happy with the way we closed the game,” McDaniel said. “But, that’s something that we have to work on as a team, as a unit. And no matter who’s on the court, we have to be able to close the game the same way.”