SOUTH KINGSTOWN — In the handshake line, Chariho’s Nathaniel Felicetti had a few words for the opposing coach.
It was an intense game.
And the coach happens to be his dad.
Felicetti hit what proved to be the game-winning layup on Friday night as the Chargers won 46-44 over Prout, coached by Dean Felicetti. It was a fun ending for both, a little more fun for Nathaniel, and he made sure to remind his dad about that.
“After the game, in the line, I kind of bumped him a little bit and said, ‘Did you see that?’” Nathaniel said. “The one shot I made was that layup so that worked out. It was a really fun game.”
The family dynamic adds a layer of intrigue for an annual matchup that has some other rivalry trappings. The teams are relatively close geographically and they were evenly-matched in this one. Dean Felicetti is a former assistant at Chariho and a coach in the youth ranks, so everyone on the benches knows each other. Fans from both schools, including large student sections, jammed into the gym at Prout for the largest crowd the school has seen in some time.
“It was awesome,” Dean Felicetti said. “Great atmosphere. We need that here.”
The fans witnessed a game that was short on offense but not lacking in intensity. Every shot was contested, every passing lane narrowed, every rebound scrapped for. That’s been an identity for the Crusaders the last few years, even amid struggles in the win-loss column. They were hoping this particular effort would lead to a win, but a bucket with 1:54 left that put them up 44-40 ended up as their final points. Chariho ended the game on a 6-0 run.
“It’s not unlike North Providence where we’re right in the game and the last three or four minutes, we have a key turnover or a breakdown and it causes that – losing by a couple of points,” Dean Felicetti said. “We’re getting better every week. We’re physical. We’re tough.”
The Crusaders were playing without sophomore standout Alexis DelGiudice, who had a triple-double last week but was sidelined by an injury for this one. Still, they scratched and clawed to a one-point halftime lead and pushed it as high as six in the second half.
The Prout defense honed in on Nathaniel Felicetti and Levi King, but both eventually broke through. King hit a 3-pointer to start the Chargers’ comeback efforts after they had fallen behind by six. Later, after John Estes put Prout on top 44-40 with a cutting layup, Tyler LaBelle hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game. After a Prout turnover, Nathaniel Felicetti went to work, driving to the bucket and putting up a floater. He hadn’t made a shot the whole game, and he didn’t make this one, but he snagged the rebound and went right back up for the go-ahead layup with 33 seconds left.
“My floaters weren’t going down all game,” he said. “I figured I might as well anticipate it and try to get that first bounce. It worked.”
Prout had a shot blocked on its final possession, then turned it over. King’s free throw with one second left made it a two-point game, and Luke Slom’s halfcourt heave at the buzzer caromed off the backboard.
Slom led the Crusaders with 17 points and Estes scored 12. Tim Clarke chipped in six. King led the Chargers with 17 points. Felicetti’s two loomed large.
“My shots weren’t going down for most of the game, but to get that one – it really made a big impact,” he said.
The rivalry matchup isn’t new for the Felicetti family. Older son Gabe also played for the Chargers against Felicetti’s Prout teams, and Nathaniel, a senior, has also had opportunities. Mom Rose has watched it all from the stands. She wore a Chariho shirt on Friday. Gabe was also in attendance.
“The past three years, it’s been so fun,” Nathaniel said. “There’s a little bit of rivalry tension at the house a couple of days leading up to it, but it’s all fun and we love talking about it after.”
“We have a family group chat,” Dean said. “I said ‘Family game,’ and somebody wrote in ‘Family Feud.’ But it’s fun. It’s interesting because I’m rooting for him. He makes a good move and I’m like, ‘Nice.’ But obviously we want to stop him.”
In the end, Nathaniel got the last laugh. His Chargers improved to 2-3 in league play.
Prout fell to 1-4 with the loss but rebounded Tuesday with a win over Middletown. The Crusaders host Narragansett tonight.