CUMBERLAND — When the game got down to crunchtime, Tom Lazaras, Ben Bradley and the rest of the Cumberland High squad put on a clinic on how to close games out.
Protecting a 60-54 lead with 3:11 remaining, Cumberland put down the clamps defensively to secure a well-earned 71-57 triumph against Shea High on Tuesday night at Wellness Center. The Raiders had managed to within striking for much of this Division II contest featuring two division leaders. Then came the game’s most important stretch, which saw the Raiders miss 11 consecutive field-goal attempts and 13-of-14.
Shea’s frigid tendencies were compounded by Cumberland salting matters away with an 11-of-12 showing from the free-throw line. Bradley shook off a quiet first half to net a game-high 22 points along with seven rebounds and three assists. Greg Joubert produced a “double double” that featured 13 points and 11 rebounds for Cumberland, now 12-2 in II-North.
The key player for the Clippers on this night was Lazaras, the senior point guard who is also his team’s emotional spark plug. He got Cumberland off on the right foot with two layups and a 3-pointer sandwiched between a bullet pass that resulted in an easy score for classmate Dylan Boisclair.
Lazaras’ productive night consisted of 16 points, 11 assists, five steals and seven rebounds.
“He’s an energy guy,” said Cumberland head coach Gary Reedy about Lazaras.
While any loss is cause for dejection, Shea High head coach Matt Pita knows that his club has bigger fish to fry later this week. Friday will feature Shea welcoming West Warwick to “The Cage” for a contest that will likely decide the II-Central title.
The Wizards and Raiders each took 10-4 league records into their respective games Tuesday. West Warwick is now 11-4 after taking out Central Falls, 88-72.
“We’ll put this in the rear-view mirror and move on,” said Pita as he walked off the court. “We’ll be at practice (Wednesday) working on West Warwick.”
Alvin Semedo enjoyed a strong game for Shea, collecting 16 points and 10 rebounds. Pita had to deal with several key regulars in foul trouble during the second half, which in turn forced the coach to mix and match his lineup in hopes someone would get hot.
In many ways, Cumberland’s run to close out Tuesday’s game mimicked how the first half concluded. Up 24-20 with 4:10 remaining, the Clippers rattled off a 13-6 run to take a 37-26 lead into the break. Lazaras finished with 10 first-half points while Grant Osmundson came off the bench to bury two 3-pointers as part of an eight-point showing.
Shea remained down by double figures as the first few minutes of the second half melted away. The visitors regrouped several times to get close, but each time the Raiders seemed on the verge of narrowing the gap even further, the Clippers responded.
Up 52-47, Cumberland received a layup by Lazaras and a score from Joubert that pushed it to a nine-point game with 4:51 remaining.
Now winners of five straight, Reedy likes the direction his Clippers are heading. “I think the kids are really looking for each other a lot,” he stated. “Everybody is doing their job.”