Clippers fall in Final Four again

Clippers fall in Final Four again

Cumberland senior center Jackson Zancan, #24, swats away a layup attempt by Woonsocket senior guard Justo Colon, #11, for one of his six blocked shots in the game. Behind Zancan is Cumberland freshman forward Seth Anderson, #42. (Photos by Chuck Nadeau / www.chuckn.com)
Woonsocket takes charge early, deals Cumberland 58-51 defeat

KINGSTON – The Cumberland High boys’ basketball team’s magical run through the Open Tournament came to an end for the second straight season in last Saturday afternoon’s Final Four, as the young Clippers suffered a 58-51 loss to neighboring rival Woonsocket at URI’s Ryan Center.

The Novans scored the game’s first 11 points and never trailed in the contest, as they held a 25-17 lead at halftime and led by as many as 17 points, 53-34, with six minutes to play. The Clippers made a small comeback in the game’s final minutes, but it wasn’t enough to pull out what would have been an incredible finish.

Senior center Jackson Zancan concluded his superb high school career by tossing in a game-high 27 points and adding 12 rebounds, six blocked shots, and five three-pointers. But aside from freshman guard Colin Morais, who had 11 points, no one else on the Clippers managed to score more than four points.

“The difference was (Woonsocket) was bigger and stronger, (with) seniors against freshmen and sophomores mostly,” Cumberland head coach Gary Reedy remarked. “Jackson held his own, but you could tell that was it. We couldn’t get nothing early. We spotted them (an) 11-0 (lead) and we were down by eight at the half.”

With a good smattering of fans in the college arena, the Clippers, who end their season with a 16-12 record, started out slowly, while the Novans continued to gain momentum with each basket they hit. They crashed the boards and were more physical and faster, and they seemed to have the answers to stop the Clippers.

Senior guard Dwayne Robinson-O’Hagan, who helped key the Villa Novans’ opening 11-0 run, finished the game with 22 points, and junior center Ousmane Kourouma played a strong first half before ending up with 12 points and 17 rebounds.

After a screen that caused a turnover, junior point guard Dante Aviles-Santos finally sank the first bucket for Cumberland with 9:38 left in the first half. The Clippers started to find some rhythm and narrowed the deficit to eight points at the half, but at the start of the second half, the Novans hit a quick three-pointer to reclaim their double-digit lead.

“Our goal was to keep (Woonsocket) to 57 (points) or under,” Reedy said. “They got 58, but we didn’t get anything, and we didn’t get it because they were just a little bit quicker and we were a little timid on offense. We were a little bit overwhelmed in the first 8-9 minutes. And in the beginning of the second half, what happens? They come out and hit a three.”

The Clippers came back to cut their deficit to 37-30, thanks to Morais, who had back-to-back steals that led to fast-break layups. But the Novans responded by scoring 16 of the next 20 points to take their 53-34 command.

Down by 19 points, the Clippers again refused to throw in the towel. Zancan tried to put the Clippers on his back and hit some big three-pointers down the stretch, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Clippers’ comeback ran out of time, and they got as close as six points to the lead in the final minute of the game.

“Jackson ended a great career,” Reedy added. “Going into this game, we didn’t even know how many points he was short of (the team’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon) Kolek. He’s had a hell of a year – the Ryan Center hasn’t been very good to me or Jackson.”

Playing in their first season in Division I, the Clippers had an up-and-down season, but won the chance to compete in the Open Tournament by surviving their play-in game against East Providence, 63-62. From there, the Clippers stunned the top seed, three-time defending state champion Bishop Hendricken, 62-55, and rolled past Toll Gate in the Elite Eight, 65-51.

“This was an unbelievable season,” Reedy added. “I’m so proud of these kids (and) what we accomplished. We had a three-part season: we got off to a hot start, we beat these guys, and we beat Mount Pleasant and Classical. Then we got cold and then we got warm and then we got hot again. I’m so proud of these kids and where they came from.”

Left, Cumberland freshman guard Colin Morais, who scored 11 points, gets ready to toss in a layup despite being guarded by Woonsocket senior guard Justo Colon during last Saturday night’s game. Right, Colon runs out of the way of Cumberland senior center Jackson Zancan, #24, as he dunks in front of Woonsocket sophomore forward Eric Agyemang, left, during the second half of last Saturday night’s Final Four game at URI’s Ryan Center. Zancan scored a game-high 27 points, but the Novans came away with a 58-51 victory.