By Russ Waterman
Fans were crammed into every corner at Jim Ahearn Gym at Mt. Pleasant High School to watch the host Kilties defeat Bishop Hendricken, 78-66, in the first meeting of the season between two top-rated Division 1 squads.
Mt. Pleasant sophomore guard Billy Soriano (20 points, five assists, four steals) directed the attack and 6-foot-4 junior forward Frank Robinson caught fire in the second half to finish with 24 points.
The Kilties attacked the rim in the first half, scoring all their points in the paint or at the foul line by converting 9-of-14 free throw attempts. Using a combination of defenses, they also clamped down on the five-time defending state champs to hold them to just 7-of-35 shooting (1 of 12 three-pointers) to build a 33-20 lead at intermission.
But the Kilties still had to withstand a furious second-half onslaught by Hendricken guard Billy Baron. Held to just eight points in the first half, the 6-2 senior guard erupted for 33 points after the break to end with a game-high 41 points.
While Baron began connecting in the second half, so did Robinson. Robinson countered with four long-distance shots on the wing and also dished off for a few nifty assists to keep the Hawks from getting closer than six points.
The Kilties also had solid contributions from Jeff Darius who added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
"Kevin Barnes, Marcel Greene and Jeff Darius deserve a lot of credit because of all the dirty work they do for us," Kilties head coach Chris Coleman said.
With the Hawks' loss, only Woonsocket in Division 1 North and Mt. Pleasant in Division 1 East are undefeated in the state's top division.
"This was a great game between two great teams but Hendricken is still the team to beat," Coleman said. "You still have to knock them out when it counts the most in March."
More Boys Basketball: Cranston West winner in OT over East
A brilliant all-around effort by senior guard Ethan Smith helped lift Cranston West to a 60-57 overtime win over host Cranston East in an intra-city battle between the Division 1 West rivals.
Smith helped the Falcons rally from a nine-point deficit by scoring most of his game-high 28 points in a comeback midway through the second half.
Cranston East forged ahead, 32-27, at the half, thanks to the hot shooting of Mike Juarez, scoring 13 of his team-high 19 points, including a trio of three-pointers.
In the Falcons' eight-minute, 24-10 run that reversed the tide for a Falcons' 53-48 lead, Smith was unstoppable, scoring 18 points, highlighted by three three-point plays, including two treys.
Cranston West, however, made just one foul shot in four attempts in the final two minutes. Marwing Pena (12), with an assist by Ricky Fuller (11), tied the game for East with a layup in the closing seconds to force the game into overtime.
Ironically, just one basket was made in the extra session and that was by Fuller. The Falcons sewed up the contest with six straight free throws. Other contributors for Cranston West were Richard Grasso (13) and Gian Papa (9).
Boys Basketball Notes
* Unbeaten Woonsocket stayed atop Division 1 North by holding Cumberland to just eight points in the second half on its way to a with a 71-44 victory. Four players scored in double figures for the Villa Novans – Antjuan Jones (19), Tyrone Griffith (16), Lee Vasquez (14) and Nathan Geter (13).
* Behind 25 points and seven 3-pointers by Tyler Radicioni, Chariho handed Coventry its first in-state loss of the season, 69-58, to win the Coventry Credit Union Holiday Classic championship.