Prout’s resurgence from a 2-8 start to the season took the team to the postseason and a first-round win but ended shy of a Cinderella run.

Top-seeded North Smithfield raced out of the gates in Tuesday’s quarterfinal game and held off every Prout charge for a 71-49 victory and a spot in the semifinals.

“The guys battled,” Prout coach Dean Felicetti said. “They’re just really good. Every time we made a little run, they answered.”

It was a difficult ending for the Crusaders, who felt that they were playing as well as anyone in the league down the stretch, with eight wins in their final 11 games. In the big picture, though, that run alone was an achievement.

“Start of the year, we were trying to figure stuff out,” senior Will Bussey said. “That Mount game, we lost close right at the buzzer. Everything changed after that. We started practicing really well. We were playing together. Everybody just meshed. Second half of the season, we went from 2-8 to 8-10. No one had us winning a playoff game. No top-10 votes in the preseason.”

The turnaround included an impressive victory in a preliminary-round playoff game, where the Crusaders went on the road and beat eighth-seeded Paul Cuffee School. Bussey scored 32, Lawson O’Hearn tallied 24 and Charlie Horne had 10, all of them picking up the slack with leading scorer Casey Bazzano sidelined by injury.

“That was a blast,” Bussey said. “It was a really fun game. We played Juanita a couple of days before that on their senior night, too, and that was the same kind of environment. It’s just so much fun to play in those kinds of games.”

The Crusaders played with the same kind of effort on Tuesday but found themselves in an uphill battle throughout. North Smithfield dominated the offensive glass in the opening minutes and stormed to a 12-0 lead.

“We’ve had some slow starts this year so we really focused on coming out hard tonight,” North Smithfield coach Brandon DiPaola said. “I thought the guys did a great job on the offensive glass and that really got us going.”

The 12-0 start featured seven second-chance points. Isaiah Chauvin scored eight points and Carter Deslauriers tallied the other four. For a Prout team that was hoping to spring an upset, it was a significant hill to climb.

“The 12-0 run to start, it’s always hard to come back from,” Bussey said. “We kept on telling ourselves, ‘We’re not out of it,’ but they’re a really, really good team. It’s hard to fight back against them.”

The Crusaders eventually settled in, opening the second quarter with a 9-2 run and moving within four at the three-minute mark.

As good as North Smithfield’s opening run had been, the response that came next was better. Another offensive rebound set up a 3-pointer from Aidan Bienvenue. Tyson Green hit from deep on the next trip. Chauvin scored in the lane and Alvendz Viera Dones hit a bucket in the paint. It added up to a 10-0 run. Bienvenue continued the surge with a back-breaking 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, sending the Northmen to the locker room with a 36-21 lead.

“We always talk about how it’s a game of runs,” DiPaola said. “Credit Prout. They kept coming. I thought our guys did a great job of sticking with it.”

The Crusaders kept pushing in the second half but made little headway. Their best chance came after O’Hearn made it a 56-42 game with 5:36 left in the fourth. Chauvin answered with a bucket inside, and Prout missed four straight shots as the Northmen built the lead back to 18 before cruising to the finish.

“They’re a great team,” Felicetti said. “They’re a one seed for a reason. They can score inside, outside. They’re tough.”

Chauvin poured in 26 points to lead all scorers. Bienvenue, Viera Dones and Azariah Chauvin had eight points each. O’Hearn led Prout with 15 points. Bussey and Horne scored 10 points each.

The Crusaders will bid farewell to a good senior class, and they hope to build around their strong sophomore core.

“I’m going to miss these seniors,” Felicetti said. “Such good kids. Such a great group all around. Great future, it looks like. For the majority of the games this year, we’ve had four sophomores out there. I’m really pleased with that, and I think we’ll have a nice group of freshmen coming in. I think we’re going to be OK.”

Saints rally past Rebels

With senior Jayden Cardoso getting on his scoring groove and the St. Raphael boys basketball team tightening things up defensively, the Saints proved successful in righting the ship in the nick of time on Thursday night.

Down 11 points with 5:04 remaining, St. Raphael saw that deficit to South Kingstown and simply dug deep. Before the upset-minded Rebels knew it, they were fighting for playoff survival. When SRA senior Niyo White stepped back and made a three from the top of the key with 1:50 remaining, the home team found itself back in front and determined to keep South Kingstown at bay for the game’s duration.

White’s big shot was part of an 18-2 surge that lifted the fifth-seeded Saints from the depths of despair and to a 64-59 triumph over the No. 12 Rebels in the Division II preliminary round. A senior, Cardoso saved his best work for the fourth quarter – in particular after an SRA squad that’s now won nine straight found itself in double-digit trouble – on his way to netting a game-high 20 points.

“Jayden is a great scorer. The whole team gets pumped when he starts scoring,” said White about Cardoso, who totaled 11 points in the fourth quarter.

The three-ball that saw White and St. Raphael go from down two to up 60-59 highlighted a 17-point night that featured perfection at the foul line (6-of-6). Between White and Cardoso, the pair went to the charity stripe a combined six times in the fourth and made all six.

For a South Kingstown squad that came in with nothing to lose as the lowest possible seed in this year’s D-II tournament, the fact that they were five minutes away from pulling off a major stunner speaks volumes to the future of the program. Two sophomores – Griffin Sward and Jonah Monnes – helped fuel the wave of momentum that the Rebels started to build towards the tail end of the first half. The visitors continued to ride the wave in the fourth quarter before the game turned in the Saints’ favor for good.

“I just thought they upped the intensity and we needed to make a few more shots,” said South Kingstown head coach Henry Herbermann. “We were finding guys who were open for easy looks, but they just picked it up.”

The bread-and-butter play that helped South Kingstown cut into a 10-point deficit in the second quarter involved senior Dae-Sean Kirby (14 points) driving on the baseline before swinging the ball to either Sward (18 points) or Monnes (16 points). Most of the time, Sward and Monnes finished with little resistance as the Saints ran into major problems when it came to defending the paint.

After ending the first half on an 11-2 run that cut SRA’s lead to 30-28 at halftime, South Kingstown kept on coming. Between Sword and Monnes, the pair scored a combined 15 points with a floater from Monnes helping push SK’s advantage to 45-38. The third-quarter lead peaked at nine points before Cardoso sent out a signal of what was to come by hitting a jumper that made it 47-40 heading to the final eight minutes.

When Kirby connected with Monnes, the Rebels appeared to be in good shape at 57-46 while the Saints continued to search for answers with time not exactly on their side. Two free throws and a driving score by Cardoso helped St. Raphael move closer before Kirby notched what proved to be his team’s final basket, one that maintained what was believed to be a solid lead for the Rebels (59-50).

A three-point play by Cardoso made it a two-possession game with 3:55 left (59-53) with the ensuing SRA possession resulting in a trip to the foul line for White and two more points. St. Raphael senior Ethan McCann-Carter cashed in on a second-chance opportunity to make it a two-point game with three minutes left as the Rebels suddenly lost their way on both ends of the court.

SRA’s lead grew to three when McCann-Carter skied for the offensive board and went back up and scored with 50 seconds left. Coming out of a timeout with 23.7 seconds remaining, the Rebels had not one but two good looks at a potential game-tying three. White iced it with two free throws with 9.3 seconds left.

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