Thursday, January 22, 2009

Classical Wins Without RI Gatorade Player of The Year Ashton Watkins

It looks like the basketball team at my old high school could be on it's way to another state championship, via Projo Sports:

PROVIDENCE –– The odds seemed to be stacked against Classical last night. The Purple’s leading scorer, Ashton Watkins, last year’s Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year (20 points, 19 rebounds per game), injured his knee against Pilgrim on Monday and did not suit up. In addition, head coach Todd Keefe missed the game with the flu, and sharp-shooting point guard Michael Palumbo played despite having a lingering left-knee injury. The defending state champions were playing a Shea team that was focused on moving into a first-place tie atop the Division II-North standings with a victory over the undefeated Purple. But Classical (6-0) wasn’t ready to lose its first league game in more than a year. Despite a heavy protest by the upset-minded Raiders (4-2), Classical survived a thrilling, 86-81 overtime contest. “It was a good win but we never should have been in that position to begin with,” Classical assistant coach John Kavanagh said. “We should have been able to take care of it in the second half, but they really put the pressure on, pulled up on the lead and we couldn’t close it out then. Give Shea credit: they played a great game. They fought hard.” Kavanagh said he was proud of his players because the Purple beat a good team without Classical’s best player. “Ashton is a really good player, but we are not just a one-man team,” Kavanagh said. “We have other options and I think we showed that tonight. Ashton Watkins is a really good player, but we have five or six other guys on this team who can get it done to.” Palumbo, who was carried out of the gym by the fans who rushed the court chanting “M-V-P,” scored 22 points, as did Jordan Jones (14 rebounds). Lavon Waite (16 points) and Marquise Frazier (14 points, 16 rebounds) also starred for Classical. After trailing almost the entire game, the Raiders nearly stole it in the final minute of regulation. Shea overcame a 14-point deficit with six minutes to go to send it into overtime, thanks in large part to Kevin Walker (19 points), Malcum Moniz (18 points), Orlando Whitaker (13 points) and Bravilio Silva (11 points). “Moniz and Walker are both tough guards,” Kavanagh said. “Moniz is an aggressive guard who can shoot it from the outside, and Walker is athletic.” Rudy-Louis Brito (9 points) drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Raiders a 68-66 lead with 43 seconds remaining in regulation. Frazier scored on a tip-in with 21.1 seconds left, and Shea called a timeout with 10.7 seconds left to try to draw up the game-winning shot. Brito received an inbounds pass on the right baseline and beat his defender to the basket, scoring on an acrobatic layup with 5.4 seconds left to put Shea ahead, 70-68. Classical got the ensuing in-bounds pass to Palumbo, who dribbled the length of the court and connected on a 12-foot pull-up jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. The two teams went shot-for-shot in the early portion of overtime, but a crucial foul with Classical in the bonus, along with a technical foul for arguing the call, gave the Purple the momentum it needed to go on and win the game. Gregory Holt knocked down the technical free throw and Palumbo added two more to give Classical a 78-72 cushion with 2:10 remaining in the game. Classical made 10 of 12 free throws in the extra period to seal the victory. “Shea is an athletic team and they shoot the ball well from the outside, so I told the guys at halftime that we had to get back in transition and we had to box out, and they ended up getting a lot of easy layups and second-chance points in the second half,” Kavanagh said. “We have to do a better job in transition and boxing out.” Shea will look to bounce back against Toll Gate tomorrow at 7 p.m., while Classical looks to remain perfect tomorrow when the Purple visit North Providence.


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