Northmen take D-III by storm

Northmen take D-III by storm

One of the highlights of North Smithfield’s young season was the Northmen’s 68-67 victory over Coventry in the finals of the Ocean State Credit Union Classic on Dec. 29 at Coventry High. Ethan Savoie, left, was selected to the All-Tournament Team and Steven Goulet, was named the tournament’s MVP. Both junior guards are also expected to reach the 1,000-point marks in their outstanding high school careers later this season.
After enduring four straight losing seasons, hoop team breaks out to 8-1 start

NORTH SMITHFIELD – It’s been five years since the North Smithfield High boys’ basketball team last electrified its town by capturing the Division III championship and carrying a 26-0 mark into the Final Four of the state playoffs, but the vibe from that glorious season appears to be back with this winter’s Northmen.

After enduring four straight losing seasons, the Northmen rolled into this week with an 8-1 record that includes a 4-0 mark in Division III-North action and their two victories in the Ocean State Credit Union Classic that was held during the holiday break at Coventry High.

And while that’s great, here’s the scary part: There’s only one senior, forward Ryan Deslauriers, on the Northmen’s 11-man roster, and the co-captain isn’t among the starting five.

With a pair of three-year standouts, junior guards Ethan Savoie (who is a co-captain) and Steve Goulet; two key transfer students from Indiana, junior guards and twin brothers Micah Camble-Meriwether and Jason Meriwether; and a sophomore center, Aldrec Viera Dones, who could be one of the top big men in the division for years to come, this season and next promise to be truly exciting ones for the Green & Gold.

“Our kids are really playing well,” said fourth-year head coach Brandon DiPaola. “I knew that we were going to have a good year; I just didn’t know how it was going to be at the beginning. I thought there was going to be a little learning curve, but honestly, these kids are such good friends, and there’s such a great bond between me and them. We’ve been together for so many years and we’ve gone through a few losing seasons, but we’re having fun and we’re enjoying this.”

DiPaola took a few minutes to talk about his team and its outstanding season last Wednesday, Jan. 3, after the Northmen, thanks to 14 three-pointers, rolled to an 86-46 non-league victory over Blackstone Valley Prep on the Pride’s new campus in Cumberland, and one aspect that he discussed was the number of offensive weapons on his squad.

Last year, the Northmen erased the sting of a winless D-III season by posting a 6-11 record and squeaking into the playoffs as the 10th and final seed, and a big reason for the turnaround was the excellent play of Savoie and Goulet, who were regarded as the Northmen’s top two scoring threats and named to the division’s all-star team.

Both saw their fair share of triangle-and-two defenses from opposing teams, but this season, opponents have had to dig up different ways to contain not only Savoie and Goulet, who are both averaging over 17 points per game and should reach the 1,000-point mark this year, but also their teammates.

“Last year, every team focused on them, but the biggest thing that I like this year is that they’re really looking for everyone else,” said DiPaola. “They’re really spreading the floor and they’re finding each other, and that makes it so hard to guard them. We’re averaging about 74 points per game because we’re flying. We’re going down (the court) and we’re hitting three-pointers. We have four guards out there at all times, so it’s tough.”

And Camble-Meriwether, who is also averaging 13 points per game, and Meriwether, who is a solid defensive player, have made the Northmen tougher with their all-around play.

“They’re from New Albany High School, which is a big basketball school,” reported DiPaola. “Romeo Langford, the number two recruit in the country, goes to their school. ... Micah and Jason have given us some big minutes and they’ve been a very big help. We actually slid Micah to the point, which he’s never played in his life, and he’s doing a phenomenal job at it.”

As for Viera Dones, who is an imposing figure at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he’s averaging a little over 13 points and 11 rebounds a night, and he also has a couple of 20-point games to his credit.

“It’s his first year playing varsity,” added DiPaola. “Al is obviously our key, and he’s playing really well inside. Everything’s been good with him.”

Junior guard Kyle Haner, who is a defensive standout that’s also returning from last winter’s squad, has been in the starting lineup, and Deslauriers has given the Northmen some much needed size off the bench.

The Northmen, who began a homestand this week by playing defending D-III champion Tiverton (4-1) and one-win Exeter/West Greenwich, will host another one-win team, St. Patrick Academy, on Friday at 7 p.m., but after that, the schedule gets a whole lot tougher.

Next Tuesday at 7 p.m., the Northmen will host Ponaganset, which is in second place in the North, and their next league game is on Jan. 24 against Wheeler, which is 5-0 in Division III-East play, and along with Tiverton and N.S., is widely regarded as one of the teams to beat in the league.

“Mount Hope’s another top team that could fight for a top spot,” said DiPaola. “We have some very tough games coming up, so we’ll see what happens.”

Junior guard Micah Camble-Meriwether, who is a transfer student from Indiana, has been a welcomed addition to the team. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)