Cougar boys fall in state tourney

Cougar boys fall in state tourney

NORTH PROVIDENCE - There was no more fuel in the tank.

After going on an improbable run which saw them capture the Division II state championship by winning three games in five days over higher seeded opponents, the North Providence High School boys basketball team ran out of gas and lost in the opening round of the state open tournament to Classical last week, 54-45.

That marked the end of the season for the Cougars.

"We did not do too much right to be honest about it," said head coach Paul Rizzo. "My concern was that after the incredible run we put together that these guys would be emotionally and physically drained, and they were. They gave everything, but there just wasn't any more to give."

Classical rolled out to a 31-23 lead at half behind their all-state guard Kealen Ives, and the Purple, defending state champs, were never threatened after that.

Employing multiple defenses aimed at slowing down Ives, who scored 20 points, North Providence held the ace scorer pretty much in check, but Classical's secondary scorers were winning the battle of the boards, getting second and third opportunities, and kept increasing their lead.

"We didn't do a good job boxing out or challenging shots, and I think it was because the team was just exhausted," said Rizzo. "They gave it their all, but could not perform like they did in the previous three games."

The coach said it was difficult for the team to remain upbeat after they stunned Division II by knocking off Prout, top-seeded West Warwick and second-seeded Barrington to take the Division II crown.

Starting the season with no returning starters, the team was expected to be a .500 squad at best and overachieved during the regular season, posting a 12-6 mark to win the Northern Division regular season championship before advancing to the playoffs and winning the Division II crown.

"If anyone had told me we would have accomplished that, I wouldn't have believed them," said Rizzo. "But the team believed in itself and in each other and worked really hard. They were a blue collar, gritty team all season that left everything on the floor and we could not be more proud of them."