Skippers top Rebels in an edge-of-the-seat game
When all was said and done after the North Kingstown High School boys’ basketball team toppled the South Kingstown Rebels last Tuesday, head coach Aaron Thomas admitted the game was a little closer than he originally thought it would be.
“I told the team before the game that when we play them, you throw records out the window. I knew they would come out to play. This is a big rivalry, so I knew they would bring their best game. But I still didn’t think it would be this close,” he said.
The Rebels took an early 9-5 lead in the game, but Tom DeCiantis knotted the score at 11-11 on back-to-back three-pointers at the four-minute mark to start a decisive run by the Skippers.
North opened up an eight-point, 19-11, lead before South finally got a bucket three minutes into the run.
The Rebels then went on a run of their own after North gave up several offensive and defensive rebounds. Two South free throws with just 26 seconds remaining in the half sent the Skippers to the locker room clinging to a onepoint, 26-25, lead at the half.
“I thought we gave away way too many second shots. What we are not doing well enough is boxing out. Guys shoot and we start jumping with people instead of boxing them out,” Thomas said. “We got away with murder last year because Jamal Horn could jump with anybody, but this year, we need to stop jumping and start boxing out.”
Derryck Kilgore opened the second half with an immediate bucket for the Skippers, but the Rebels were able to keep pace and keep North within closing distance for the first six minutes of the half.
DiCiantis had several threepointers in the first half when the Rebels left him unguarded on the perimeter, but South seemed to have the key to keeping the Skippers’ numbers down in junior Rory McEntee.
“I thought they did a good job of keeping McEntee in the middle. They didn’t let us take it to the hole too often. As soon as McEntee was out of the game, in foul trouble, we went right after the middle,” Thomas said.
Two islanders provided key plays in the second half that sparked an eight-point run by the Skippers.
Jamestowner Tom Stacom saw less playing time than normal during the game after coming back from an illness the day before.
“But he came in and hit a big free throw for us when we needed it,” Thomas said.
When DiCiantis was cut during a scrap on the floor for a loose ball, he made the first of two free throws before officials noticed he was bleeding and sent him to the sidelines. Stacom came in and buried the second free throw to shift some momentum to the Skippers.
Junior Steve Santos proved to be pivotal off the bench to North’s second half run. “Santos stepped it up. We just talked about him in the locker room in front of everybody,” Thomas said. “When you have two big guys get in foul trouble, you are looking for somebody to step it up. He stepped it up tonight and he did great.”
Although North opened up the big lead down the stretch, the Rebels were not content to go quietly into the night.
“I thought we had turned the corner when we were up 57-48 at the 3:39 mark. I looked up and thought ‘Here we go,’” Thomas said.
A three-point bucket by South with 33 seconds remaining in the game quieted the N.K. crowd and pulled the Rebels to within three, 57-54.
A key free throw by Robert Hazard made it a two-possession game and gave the Skippers a little breathing room.
A final bucket by Robbie Walker sealed the 60-56 victory for the Skippers. Walker, a guard, had 15 points in the game.
“When you are a guard, if you have five points a game and shut the other guy down, I’m happy,” Thomas said. “He just played amazing tonight.”
Although the game was closer than Thomas predicted, he was pleased with the outcome.
“Down the stretch, we missed a couple of free throws and let them get closer and closer. But this is the second game in a row where we finished it when we had to,” Thomas said.
The Skippers saw action this week in the holiday tournament and will host their first post-holiday action against Exeter-West Greenwich on Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m.