Ponaganset catches fire in D-III

Ponaganset catches fire in D-III

Ponaganset’s Steven DelSesto, #13, has his sights set on the basket as he gets ready to weave through traffic and put in a layup in front of Central Falls’ Elton Soares, #22, during last week’s Division III game at the Chieftains’ gymnasium. DelSesto scored a season-high 33 points to help the Chieftains nip the Warriors in overtime. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Boys’ basketball team wins five of last six games, holds off Central Falls in overtime

GLOCESTER – As Steven DelSesto stole the ball away from Dutchie Arroyo, the buzzer sounded and the Ponaganset High boys’ basketball team came away with one of its biggest victories of the Division III season, a 78-76 overtime win over Central Falls last Thursday night at the Chieftains’ gym.

The Chieftains’ M.O. this season has been to win blowout games or lose close contests, but they turned that around by defeating a fast, high-scoring C.F. team.

The Chieftains also cruised past winless Davies, 86-45, on Monday night to pick up their fifth win in their last six games and improve their record to 8-7.

They got off to a slow start this season, but Ponaganset head coach Roger Forand said that his team had lost games to Mount Hope by eight points, North Smithfield by four, Tiverton by three, and Burrillville by two.

“We needed to win a close game, and that was a big game to win,” Forand said of the win over the Warriors. “(Central Falls) is a good team. I think they had won their last 10 (games).”

C.F. jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Chieftains took over and held a 41-28 advantage at the half. But the Warriors did not count themselves out. They came all the way back to tie the score, 69-69, and send the game into overtime.

In the last minute of regulation, the Warriors’ Eliezer Ortiz hit a three-pointer to bring his team to within a point, 68-67. DelSesto was then fouled and sent to the free throw line, but he only sunk his first shot to make it a two-point game.

Arroyo then drove down the court and put in the basket that tied the contest with three seconds on the clock and forced bonus basketball.

In overtime, a three-pointer by the Warriors’ Marcos Negron tied the score at 75-75, but Ponaganset went ahead to stay, as DelSesto hit the second of two free throws and Kyle Cullen stole the ball from C.F. and put in a layup.

The Chieftains were then able to get key rebounds down the stretch to preserve their slim lead, and with seconds on the clock, DelSesto stole the ball from Arroyo to seal the victory.

“We survived with the win,” Forand said. “There was no quit in Central Falls right to the end. They were hitting three-pointers late in the game and in overtime. Life would be easier if we hit a few of the foul shots at the end, but we played great defense. It was a battle between two pretty good teams.”

Only two Chieftains scored in double digits, as DelSesto netted a season-high 33 points and Cullen had 18. Cal Parrillo added seven points, while Mike Resnick and Sean Cullen each had six.

“We didn’t play our normal game tonight,” Forand said. “Man for man, (Central Falls) is faster than us, so we decided to pack it in a little bit more and play a zone. It was totally different, but the kids soaked it up. They listened to what we were doing, they accepted what we wanted to do, and we came through with the win.”

In Monday night’s win over Davies, DelSesto scored a game-high 15 points, Parrillo added 12, and Ryan Smith had 10.

The Chieftains, along with much of Division III, have qualified for the playoffs and are now playing for their seeding. Forand hopes to host a playoff game this year, but until then, his team is simply focused on one opponent at a time.

“We’re still relatively a young team,” Forand said. “I have five seniors, but at end of the game, we had two juniors and two sophomores on the floor for most of the last eight minutes. The fact that we’ve lost close games makes it good to get a win in a close game and for these guys to learn how to win.”

The Chieftains, who hosted Exeter/West Greenwich on Wednesday night, will visit Scituate on Friday at 7 p.m.