NARRAGANSETT — Returning from a nearly two-week COVID pause and still shorthanded, the Narragansett boys basketball team came close to stealing a win on Tuesday night.

A strong finish by Cranston East dashed those hopes in a 57-51 game, but the Mariners were glad to be back on the court. Their makeshift squad also set the tone for their upcoming return to full speed.

“It was good to be back,” head coach Phil Rattenni said. “It was a game where our guys battled. We found some depth. The JV guys played well. Great attitude and effort. I was proud of the way we competed.”

The Mariners had split their first two games of the season when they encountered positive COVID-19 tests soon after their Dec. 17 game against Classical.

“We got a good team effort and we competed very well against Woonsocket,” Rattenni said. “We played really aggressive and did a lot of things well. Up at Classical, different story. The adversity bug kind of hit us and we didn’t respond well to it, which we talked about a lot. We missed a lot of shots early and played ourselves out of the game. We talked about it the next couple of days and were putting it behind us, and then we had the positive tests.”

A league game with Hendricken and non-league tilts with South Kingstown and Pilgrim were called off, and the Mariners couldn’t return to practice until Jan. 2. About half the players on the roster are still working through return to play protocols, but the Mariners were able to cobble together a lineup for Monday’s game featuring four varsity players and six junior varsity players.

“Luckily for us, nobody was sick. Everybody handled it as best they could, which was nice,” Rattenni said. “We got back after it Sunday. We had eight guys at practice, four varsity guys. We got ready as best as we could.”

As expected, there were some bumps in the road as the Mariners made their return. Cranston East raced to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, holding Narragansett to one field goal in the first five minutes of the game. But the Mariners showed some serious fight in working their way back into the game. Van Limoges scored 10 second quarter points to get the Mariners within three points at halftime.

It remained a tight game into the fourth quarter, when the Mariners delivered an 8-0 run to take their largest lead of the game. Nathan Macfarlane hit a short jumper before 3-pointers by Limoges and Chase Flint made it 49-42 with 4:40 left.

Cranston East snapped out of a funk soon after, and ramped up its defensive pressure. The result was a decisive 15-2 run that turned the game around.

Miguel Espinal led all scorers with 19 points for the Thunderbolts. The Mariners were led by Limoges with 15 points. Flint and Mekhi Wilson added 13 points each and Tyler Poirier had seven.

The rest of the Mariners should be ready to go on Thursday, when the team takes on East Greenwich.

“They’re on day five of the seven day return to play, so they’ll be cleared and good to go on Thursday,” Rattenni said. “They’ve been chomping at the bit to get back out there. We’ll be back to almost full strength on Thursday.”

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