Skippers dash Novans’ state title hopes

Skippers dash Novans’ state title hopes

Woonsocket senior guard Dwayne Robinson-O’Hagan, left, does his best to maneuver past North Kingstown senior center Nick Quarella, #24, and put in a layup during the second half of Sunday night’s championship game. Robinson-O’Hagan scored 19 points, but the Villa Novans ended up dropping a 77-57 decision. (Photos by Chuck Nadeau / www.chuckn.com)
Boys’ hoop team tops Clippers in Final Four opener, but can’t stop high-scoring N.K.

KINGSTON – If the Woonsocket High boys’ basketball team hoped to beat North Kingstown High in Sunday night’s state championship game at URI’s Ryan Center, it was going to have to contain the Skippers’ high-octane offense, which averaged a whopping 94 points per game in its previous three Open Tournament victories.

And while the 5th-seeded Villa Novans clamped down defensively on the 2nd-seeded Skippers in the first half and trailed by a 34-27 score at the break, they weren’t able to slow down the Division I champions over the final 16 minutes and ended up suffering a 77-57 defeat that gave N.K. its program’s first state championship.

The Novans, who were making their program’s fourth appearance in the state title game, and their first since the 2007-08 season, only led on two occasions in the opening half, as the Skippers, who were led by junior guard Clay Brochu’s game-high 36 points, shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and seemed to do no wrong.

If you needed an indication that this was shaping up to be the Skippers’ night, Nick Sacchetti gave one when he sank a long buzzer-beating three-pointer at the top of the key right before halftime, turning what would have been a two-possession game into a seven-point command.

Brochu, who scored 21 of his points in the second half, and his teammates then shot the lights out of the Ryan Center in the opening minutes of the second half, and thanks to a pair of three-pointers by Brochu, the Skippers took a 51-38 lead that forced the Novans to call a time-out. They would never cut their deficit to single digits after that.

“It hurts,” said Woonsocket head coach T.J. Ciolfi. “I thought we were right there in the first half and we could have played with them. Even when we went into halftime down by seven, you still feel like you’re in a basketball game.”

In the second half, “(North Kingstown) must have made their first five or six shots,” Ciolfi added. “It’s hard to overcome that because they’re not going to have a lull. They’re a very good team; they’ve been the best team in the state all year. At the end of the day, they just shot the lights out, and that kid Clay was unbelievable.”

The Novans were led by senior guard Dwayne Robinson-O’Hagan, who scored 19 points, including the 1,000th of his career when he swished a three-pointer 4:06 into the game. Robinson-O’Hagan also sank a three-pointer with 2:41 to play in the first half to give the Novans their second and last lead of the night, 27-26.

Senior guard Justo Colon scored 13 points; sophomore forward Denzel Lyles added eight before fouling out of the game with 5:19 to play, and junior center Ousmane Kourouma, who was also in foul trouble, had seven. Sophomore supersub Eric Agyemang also tossed in six points and “played some big minutes” after Lyles and Kourouma picked up their third fouls late in the first half, Ciolfi noted.

“I’m proud of my kids,” added Ciolfi, whose team finishes its season with an overall record of 22-7. “This was an unbelievable season, and once they have some time to reflect on it on our bus ride (back home), I hope they take it for what it is – it’s one of the best seasons in the last 50 years at Woonsocket. Hats off to (North Kingstown), but our kids have nothing to be ashamed of at all.”

In order to reach the championship game, the Villa Novans needed to top a team they faced three times during the regular season, neighboring Cumberland, in their Final Four opener last Saturday night at URI. But thanks to 22 points from Robinson-O’Hagan and 12 points and 17 rebounds by Kourouma, they were able to grab a 58-51 victory.

The Novans never trailed in this game, as they scored the contest’s first 11 points, took a 25-17 advantage into intermission, and led by as many as 17 points in the second half. The Clippers, who were guided by senior center Jackson Zancan’s game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, tried to come back in the game’s closing minutes, but they were only able to trim their deficit down to as many as six points.

Woonsocket sophomore forward Eric Agyemang, #24, keeps his head up as he walks past the North Kingstown players celebrating the state championship.
Woonsocket forward Denzel Lyles, right, gets ready to dunk the ball during last Saturday’s Final Four opener at URI’s Ryan Center. The Novans advanced to the state championship game by posting a 58-51 victory.
North Kingstown fans have a great view of Woonsocket forward Eric Agyemang, #24, putting in a layup over North Kingstown guard Aiden Hindley-Rivera during the first half of Sunday night’s game.