Clippers, Mariners set sail on duel

Clippers, Mariners set sail on duel

Cumberland High sophomore guard Dante Aviles-Santos, #5, drives toward the basket during a non-league game earlier in the season against St. Raphael Academy. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Boys’ basketball teams collide Friday in showdown between D-II leaders

CUMBERLAND – The game a lot of high school basketball junkies circled on their calendars back in December is finally on deck.

Even when Cumberland dropped a tough-to-swallow 63-61 decision to East Greenwich back on Jan. 3, those who followed the Division II hoop scene knew deep down that, come Feb. 9 at the Clippers’ Wellness Center, Cumberland and Narragansett would be playing a meaningful game that could decide the regular-season championship.

Sure enough, both teams, who wrapped up their respective contests on Monday night with first-place 14-1 records, will collide tomorrow night in a 7 p.m. showdown with a lot on the line.

The bleachers on both sides of the court will be open for what promises to be a standing-room-only gathering, and the parking lot behind the high school should fill up in a hurry. It’s going to be the game of the week in the state, and it’s a game that’s certainly the buzz in the community, as well as in South County.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Cumberland head coach Gary Reedy. “There’s no question about it. We’ll be jockeying probably for the (number) one and two (seeds in the playoffs). East Greenwich is 13-1, but they have to play Westerly, Shea, and Narragansett (on the road), where we just have to play West Warwick next Monday.”

The Clippers will surge into this matchup with a 12-game win streak, 13 if you count their 71-67 non-league victory over Rocky Hill at last Saturday’s CCRI High School Shootout in Warwick.

The Mariners, meanwhile, absorbed their first defeat in league play last Thursday night at home to fourth-place Middletown, 59-53, but they came back with a vengeance on Monday night and blasted Pilgrim, 82-40.

Reedy got to watch Narragansett play one of the Division I’s top teams, North Kingstown, in a non-league game on Dec. 30, which the Skippers won by a 75-72 score, and he was impressed with the Mariners, especially junior Colin Cameron, who enjoyed a 22-point night that saw him air out six three-pointers, and senior big man Thomas Whitford.

Entering their game on Wednesday night against Chariho, the Mariners had four players closely averaging double digits in scoring: Whitlock (14.4), senior Jack Lurgio (13.2), Cameron (11.9), and senior London Sudduth (11.8), and a fifth, sophomore Mike Levesque, who is averaging 9.1, but has sank 24 three-pointers, the second-most on the team behind Cameron’s 30.

“The thing about Narragansett is they have seven players that, at any time, can go off,” reported Reedy. “They’re a very unpredictable team. You don’t know who’s going to do what. And that group has been together since middle school. I think they might have even won a middle school state championship.

“We’re going to have our hands full, even though we’re at home,” added Reedy. “I think we’re better off in games that are faster-paced. We like to push the ball a little bit more. But they’re a little more methodical, a little bit slower. They will push the ball, but if they don’t have to, they won’t.”

It’s no secret who the top two players on the Clippers have been this season. Junior point guard Tyler Kolek entered the Clippers’ game on Wednesday night against Johnston averaging a state-best 26.1 points per contest and draining the second-most three-pointers in R.I. (63), and junior center Jackson Zancan is averaging 17.9 points and double digits in rebounds a night.

But sophomore guard Dante Aviles-Santos has also emerged as one of the top scoring threats, as he is averaging 11.6 points per game and has buried 39 treys. And sophomore forward Brendan Raftery has come out of nowhere and quietly averaged 11.2 points in his last five games.

“Raff’s been playing really well,” said Reedy. “He’s been throwing everybody a curveball. He’s been averaging between nine to 13 points a game. And he’s 6-2, 6-3 and has a big wingspan, and he’s helped us a lot on the boards.”

Junior guard Mitchell Lydon is another three-point threat, and senior forward Jeff Ferreira “will set the tone for us on defense,” added Reedy. “That’s what he does, and he does an unbelievable job. He works hard, he gets the guys going, and he’s been a great captain.”

The Clippers will need hard work and leadership in what could possibly be a preview of the D-II championship game that is scheduled for Feb. 25. And should tomorrow’s meeting be a preview, does that mean Reedy’s going to keep a few tricks up his sleeve and save them for down the road?

“Obviously, we want to go out and win, but do you want to give everything away or do you want to hold back?” he asked. “The way I’m thinking right now, I’ll show them what we have and let them try to figure it out, let them try to adapt.

“We’re definitely going to go full-tilt and show them everything we can show. I’m not going to hold anything back. What some coaches worry about is, ‘I don’t want to show them something because we might seem them again down the road,’ but I’m not going to worry about that.”

Cumberland High junior point guard Tyler Kolek entered Wednesday night’s D-II game against Johnston averaging a state-best 26.1 points per game. He was also second in the state in three-pointers with 63. Kolek and the Clippers will host Narragansett High on Friday at 7 p.m. in a game that could decide the regular-season championship and the top seed in the upcoming playoffs. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)