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Raiders’ struggles continue: First-place Wizards notch Division II-Central basketball victory

January 24, 2014

Shea senior guard Armani Luciano (2) drives past West Warwick defender Austin Paygai during the first half of the Wizards’ 80-44 victory at “The Cage” on Thursday night. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN

PAWTUCKET — Shea High got up close with one of the leading contenders in Division II this season, and the results were not pretty for the locals.
The visitors from West Warwick felt quite at home at “The Cage” Thursday night, rolling to an 80-44 victory. The II-Central leading Wizards improve to 6-0 while the Raiders have now dropped four straight league contests since beating Exeter/West Greenwich back on Dec. 20.
The final score does not paint the entire picture, as West Warwick was not in complete control right from the opening tap until the final buzzer. Shea was right there when the second half began, trailing by a 30-25 count against a team that clearly had more pieces.
The problems only intensified for the Raiders after the Wizards rebounded from what was head coach Richard Grenier considered a shaky start. A perimeter-oriented squad, West Warwick hit just one shot from beyond the arc in the opening half. The jump shots began falling with greater frequency in the second stanza as Cody Greenhalgh and Bradley Young took turns in making this one a romp in the Wizards’ favor.
By the time Shea mentor Matt Pita signaled for a timeout with 12:25 remaining, the Raiders found themselves in significant trouble, trialing 46-28. Unable to slow down what was at that point was a 16-3 surge by West Warwick, Shea could only watch has the deficit grew to 20 points and later 30 points (62-32) at roughly the nine-minute mark.
“We just opened it up,” stated Grenier matter-of-factly. “We’re a tough team to stop when we get out in transition.”
West Warwick’s greatest lead was 36 points, which also proved to be the team’s final margin of victory. Given the circumstances, the only bit of drama remaining was whether the Wizards would achieve the unthinkable: a 40-point advantage. Alas, it was the only milestone that West Warwick did not reach on this night.
Greenhalgh led all scorers with 25 points while Young chipped in with 21, 12 of which came in the first half. Armani Baker topped the Raiders with 10 points.
The difference between the two teams was obvious, even to the most casual observer. Even though the shots weren’t falling for West Warwick in the first half, the team seemed to get its points either off Shea turnovers or off second-chance opportunities.
“It’s just those hustle plays,” Pita said, noting that rebounding has been a source of concern for much of the year.
Offensively, the Raiders tried to slow things down and force the Wizards to play defense in the half-court. What resulted was a number of jump shots from the outside, many of which were rushed.
Taking everything into account, it had to be considered a victory for Pita’s Raiders that they were well within striking distance when the second half began. The problem is that the Wizards made an adjustment, that of getting out of the break with point guard Austin Paygai either feeding Greenhalgh or Young at the rim or on the wings.
“We’re very unselfish and know how to attack the basket,” said Grenier.
“That was a great second half by West Warwick,” was the tip of the cap offered by Pita.
If there’s one to take away from what clearly was a forgettable night for Pita and his players, it’s that the Raiders have very little time to lick their wounds. The next game is Friday night at home against a Narragansett squad that won at Cumberland Thursday.
“We’re looking for someone to step up,” said Pita, noting that some of the younger Shea players like sophomores Aaron Jefferies and Dominic Fernandes could be in line for an increased role.

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