Boston High School: Prout

North Providence (R.I.) hoop makes improbable run

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
12:38
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Nobody could blame North Providence High basketball coach Paul Rizzo if he shed tears of sadness last June when 10 of the 14 boys on his 2012-13 team that finished 15-3 and lost to Shea in the Division II quarterfinals graduated.

Rhode IslandNow flash forward to last Sunday when Rizzo again was shedding tears - albeit tears of joy.

The fifth-seeded Cougars, for all intents and purposes, came out of nowhere and upset second-seeded Barrington, 55-51, for the Division II state championship.

“The boys we returned played sparingly (last season),” said Rizzo. “We had several brand-new starters like Ryan McCluskie (18 ppg.), Connor Nesbitt, Alex Wagoner and Nick Sollitto plus two kids who were on the junior varsity last year and filled in, Nick Geremia (14 ppg.) and Chris Corin (12 ppg., an average that included 21 points against Barrington in the championship game)."

“Every year our goal is to make the playoffs. I stay positive with the guys. Make the playoffs and try to get better during the year, jell at some time and hopefully make some type of run.”

Good point considering the Cougars’ 30-game home winning streak was broken on February 4 when they were mauled by Barrington, 66-45.

Before the Cougars knew what hit them they were mired in a three-game losing streak – the longest North Providence had endured in the past six seasons.

At that point the Cougars were faced with two options: Mail in the rest of their schedule or show some grit and slam the door on that losing streak.

“I told the kids that Barrington and West Warwick were the class of our division and the favorites to win,” said Rizzo. “I told them you can’t get down. That stretch was the toughest part of the season. Exeter/West Greenwich (61-59) really was a tough loss. But then we regrouped.

“The kids don’t know how to get down. They’re positive. They stayed the course and kept working. I told them let’s just get back to the basics.”

Indeed.

The Cougars closed out their regular season with a five-game winning streak.

Then in the Division II Tournament they pulled off three upsets, beating fourth-seeded Prout 49-48, top-seeded West Warwick 66-52 and, as mentioned, No. 2 Barrington.

As a result, North Providence (16-8) earned the ninth seed in the 16-team Open State Championship Tournament.

Granted, North Providence averaged a modest 53.2 points per game on offense. But on defense they lived up to their nickname and played ferociously while holding opponents to a mere 49.6 points per game.

“I stress every year you should never have a night off defensively,” said Rizzo. “If you’re not good on offense you should be on defense. You have to be a constant every night and play defense. The starters play defense and the others have accepted their roles.”

Ironically, Rizzo’s current team is in stark contrast from an offensive standpoint to other teams he’s had in the past.

“We’ve had some dynamite offensive teams but they would take the night off on defense and we would play games in the 80s,” he said. “Two years ago we had three 1000-point scorers (Austin VanBemmelen, Mike Ferrante and Rob Hazard) and we got to the Elite Eight before La Salle beat us at Alumni Hall.”

The Cougars captured the 2010-11 Division II state title – their first since the 1987-88 season.

“When it came to winning close games (this season), we had guys making key shots,” said Rizzo. “They played good, solid basketball. They made free throws late. They made stops on defense. It didn’t look like they had that deer-in-the-headlights look.

“It was amazing how they reacted to those situations.”

How the Cougars react on the biggest boys’ basketball stage in the state could be most interesting commencing with Thursday night’s Round-of-16 game against eighth-seeded and defending state champion Classical.

“Classical arguably has the best player in the state in Kealen Ives,” said Rizzo. “Classical is the defending state champ and the winner of our game probably will play the number one seed (La Salle who faces 16th-seeded Middletown in the Round of 16) so you have to be playing your best ball.

“Going back three months and to see where we are now, my feeling is let’s ride with it.”

Given what the unsung Cougars have accomplished to date, perhaps it could be a longer “ride” than could have been predicted at the start of the season.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
6:17
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In 1955 the late, great comedic actor Peter Sellers made a movie titled “The Mouse That Roared.”

Rhode IslandIf the Rhode Island Interscholastic League should decide to make a high school baseball version of a sequel it should be named “The Cougars That Roared.”

With an enrollment of barely 500 male students, North Providence is near the bottom of the R.I.I.L. when it comes to sports. But the Cougars sure know how to play baseball.

Not only did coach Dean Garganese’s team capture the Division I championship with a 17-1 record, but the Cougars also earned the No. 1 seed in the 16-team, double-elimination Division I state tournament.

The Cougars got off on the right paw by mauling 16th-seeded Lincoln, 8-3, in an opening round game.

Mike Corin (three hits and two RBI), Nick DiDino (two-run single) and Tyler Proulx (two hits, one RBI) paced the attack as North Providence moved into the winners’ bracket.

North Providence annexed the top seed by blanking Moses Brown, 2-0, in its regular-season finale as Corin blanked the Quakers for six innings and Dillon McCluskie pitched a perfect seventh for the save.

In other first-round games:
* No. 2 Hendricken (the Hawks beat the Cougars two years ago in the finals) beat No. 15 East Greenwich, 7-2, as Bill Walker belted a solo homer and Tom Pannone (who’s signed a letter of intent to play his college ball at the University of Miami) allowed two runs on five hits over six innings.

* No. 14 Chariho upset No. 3 North Kingstown, 5-3, as Jacob Marchessault went the distance on a five-hitter. With the scored tied at 3 in the top of the seventh, Jim Paquette drilled a two-run single for the Chargers.

* No. 4 South Kingstown edged No. 13 Warwick Vets, 3-2, as Nick Hayes plated all of the Rebels’ runs with two hits.

* No. 5 La Salle blanked No. 12 Pilgrim, 3-0, with Caleb Gardner and Tyler Drainville combining for 12 strikeouts. The Rams scored their runs in the third on RBI doubles by Jesse Lee, Frank DiMato and Pat Burns.

* No. 11 Coventry knocked off No. 6 Cranston East, 5-1 as Matt Laferriere went the distance on a six hitter and fanned eight in the process.

* No. 7 Portsmouth routed No. 10 Cranston West, 10-0, with Matt Peters homering to key a 13-hit attack.

* No. 8 Cumberland had to work “overtime” to dispatch No. 9 Middletown, 1-0, in 12 innings. Ryan Harris led the last of the 12th with a single, advanced to third on a wild pickoff throw and scored the only run on a wild pitch.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
1:58
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Ten.

Rhode IslandThat’s the number of Division I boys’ soccer state championships captured by Barrington High since the sport was added to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League in 1966.

That’s four more titles than the next closest school, La Salle Academy, has annexed.

Yet what transpired in 2009 – one year after the Eagles won their 10th title – left a sour taste in their collective mouths.

The second-seeded Eagles, who finished 16-1-1, were upset by seventh-seeded North Kingstown, 2-1, in the opening round of the tournament.

Since the Eagles return several players from that team, the question is this: Can they put that loss to North Kingstown in the rear-view mirror and focus on winning an 11th state title?

Don’t even broach the question to coach Don Denham.

“I really don’t like to dwell in the past,” Denham said quite matter-of-factly. “I only mentioned what happened [last year] maybe once or twice shortly after we began practice. I preferred to remind them what they did during the regular season.”

Barrington finished with 49 points which was the second-highest total among Division I-North, South, East and Central teams.

“We have new leaders this season. We have new seniors. Really, they must establish their own identity.”

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