SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Ten days in, the South Kingstown boys basketball team finally played its first game of the new year and made it worth the wait.

Balanced scoring and steady defense helped the Rebels beat previously unbeaten St. Raphael 52-44 on Monday night, in their first game since Dec. 29. The Rebels had played short-handed in the Westerly Community Credit Union Tournament due to COVID-19 issues and needed some time to get back to full strength.

“Very good win,” South Kingstown head coach Henry Herbermann said. “They were 3-0 in the league. Now we’re 2-2. It’s a good win on our home court.”

The win was the first for the Rebels since their league opener Dec. 14; they had lost two straight league games following that. With the victory over the Saints – who came in at 3-0 in Division II – South Kingstown is back to .500 and feeling good about where it stands.

“We played in that Westerly tournament and we were very short-handed. We were down seven or eight guys,” Herbermann said. “Not only was this the first game for everyone in 11 days, but it was the first game for a number of guys since Dec. 22. But it did give us some time to work on stuff, and I was really proud of the way they executed.”

A fast start gave the Rebels a lead they held for all but 34 seconds. A driving layup by Rian O’Rourke and 3-pointers by Declan Wholey and Lavell Sheppard staked South to an 8-2 cushion. Two straight buckets by Wholey upped it to 12-4, and the Rebels closed the first quarter with a 14-9 lead.

The Saints opened the second quarter with six straight points for its only lead of the game at 15-14. Thirty-four seconds later, Griffin Sward hit a deep jumper for the first two of six consecutive points that put the Rebels up 20-15.

A four-point halftime lead was trimmed to two early in the second half before Sheppard and Sward scored to push it back to six. Later in the third quarter, it was a two-point game again when the Rebels hit a 6-0 burst powered by O’Rourke, Jonah Monnes and Luca Prodigio.

The Rebels kept the Saints at arm’s length in the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Sheppard upped the lead to 10 with 3:06 left and sent the Rebels on their way. Sheppard and Prodigio were perfect at the free-throw line in the final minute to close out the win.

“I was really proud of our defense,” Herbermann said. “We played a very disciplined defensive game. Everybody had specific spots and slides and things to do. We executed it well.”

Sward topped three Rebels in double figures with 12 points. Sheppard scored six of his team’s final eight points and finished with 11. Wholey tallied 10 points, while Monnes and Prodigio had six points each.

“Declan really brought a lot of energy at both ends of the court, hands up, active, taking good shots. That was really a key to the game, early and late,” Herbermann said. “Lavell is working his way back into shape, but he made some big free throws and a big 3. He was tired, but he gutted it out and made a few big shots for us.”

Both Sward and Monnes are freshmen who are giving the already balanced Rebel lineup an extra boost.

“We’ve got a few younger guys in there now who scored some big baskets,” Herbermann said. “Griffin and Jonah are both freshmen and they played really well.”

Monday’s matchup was the start of a three-game week for the Rebels, who were slated to visit Tiverton on Wednesday before a home game with Toll Gate on Friday.

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