PAWTUCKET â€” St. Raphael Academy head coach Tom Sorrentine closed his post-game interview this way: â€śWe've had trouble with size inside all year long, and that's got to change.â€ť
Minutes before, Sorrentine watched as Woonsocket High big men Gare Lyles and Piotr Linek tore down rebound after rebound in their Division I-North clash at Alumni Hall on Thursday night.
In the end, however, the Saints overcame that height, utilized an 11-5 surge in the span of 6:59 late in the final stanza and garnered a 57-49 victory before about 150 fans.
Senior co-captain Charles Correa manufactured a tilt-high 24 points (including five treys, all in the first half), eight steals, six assists and four rebounds, while classmate Jordan Peguero closed with 14 points, three boards and a pair each of thefts and assists and sophomore center Alex Zhoa five points but a squad-leading 12 rebounds.
Sophomore Graham Lynch chipped in nine points, and junior forward Chris Luciano didn't score, but recorded a half-dozen boards as SRA improved to 9-12 overall and 6-10 in league play.
â€śIt wasn't easy, but we'll take it,â€ť Sorrentine noted later. â€śWe had played them twice before, so we know each other pretty well, but I still say we've got to get it going on the boards. I thought we had trouble with their big guys inside. Zhoa was our leading rebounder, but the kids Lyles and Linek were really tough on the glass.
â€śI would've liked for us to score more down low; I mean, Charles (Correa) got most of his points on the outside, and Jordan (Peguero) had his in transition, but we've got to get better there,â€ť he added. â€śWe've got two tough games coming up.â€ť
He was referring to facing Mount Pleasant on the road at 7 p.m., Monday, and La Salle at Alumni Hall 48 hours later.
â€śThose are two games we need to have to stay alive for a playoff berth,â€ť Sorrentine said. â€śEven if we win both, we're going to need some help to make the post-season.â€ť
At the start of the second half, after it had taken a 36-26 advantage into the break, St. Raphael registered an 8-0 run in the span of 2:56 to snatch a 46-31 cushion, and it looked as if Woonsocket's evening had come to an end.
Lynch had drained a trey at the 11:50 mark to put his squad up 15, but the 'Novans immediately recovered. Blaine Desimpelaere canned a trey, Lyles hit a finger-roll, then a one-handed putback and a pretty reverse layup, with 7:51 remaining to slice the deficit to 46-40.
In that time, the Saints had several opportunities to score, but failed on all, in part because of Woonsocket's length under the basket.
In fact, all told, mentor Kyle Ivey-Jones' club blanked Sorrentine's crew for 4:59, and that lasted until Zhoa netted a one-hand â€śbunnyâ€ť with 6:51 left.
From that bucket to the 54.1 mark, SRA outscored the 'Novans, 11-5, and made the score 57-45 on Correa's driving layin.
Woonsocket (now 3-18 overall, 1-16 league) actually had a 4-3 lead after Randy Reyes dropped a short jumper only 2:32 after the opening tip, but the Saints rallied for the next 10, closing on Peguero's seven-foot, baseline jumper 2:10 later. That gave the hosts a 13-4 advantage.
The 'Novans, however, pulled back into it, cutting the SRA edge to three twice, the first time on Lyles' conventional three-point play to make it 15-12, and the second when Billy Northrup drained a layup off a steal with 8:14 left.
The two squads virtually traded baskets after that, but Correa's final â€śthree-ballâ€ť with 8.3 seconds left gave the Saints the edge at 36-26 entering intermission.
SRA forced Woonsocket into 28 turnovers, including 16 in the opening session, but made 18 itself.
â€śWe just have to improve on the inside if we want to beat Mount Pleasant and La Salle,â€ť Sorrentine said. â€śWe also need to do a better job of rebounding on both sides.â€ť