Lincoln boys' hoop team hopes to make noise in new league

Lincoln boys' hoop team hopes to make noise in new league

Lincoln High head coach Steve Carvalho, right, talks to his players during a time-out in the final minute of last week’s game against Tolman. The Lions will host Exeter/West Greenwich on Friday at 7 p.m. in their Division III-Central matchup. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
Ex-LMS coach leads senior-loaded Lions into D-III battles

CUMBERLAND – When workouts got underway for the upcoming high school basketball season in late November, Steve Carvalho was volunteering on the Lincoln High coaching staff by “helping out at the freshman level a little bit.”

But in a turn of events that saw longtime head coach Kent Crooks and his assistant, Jay Kelley, resign from their posts on Dec. 14, Carvalho found himself at the Lions’ helm two days before Christmas for their Division III-Central opener against Central Falls.

Last week, Carvalho and his Lions were in action at the 44th annual Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln’s Roadshow Holiday Classic at Cumberland High’s Wellness Center, and even though the tournament didn’t go the way Lincoln hoped – the Lions dropped their Dec. 27 opener to Cumberland, 73-60, and Dec. 28 consolation game to Tolman, 61-60 – Carvalho was more than happy to talk about his new role, his team, and the Lions’ prospects for the season.

“I’m happy to be here,” said Carvalho, who along with his assistant, Jackson Acciaioli, will be approved as the team’s official coaches at next Monday night’s School Committee meeting. “It’s certainly an opportunity that I’m going to cherish and I’m grateful for. Every day, we’re getting better, and that’s all we can do.”

Carvalho has an extensive resume that includes nearly three decades as a basketball coach, including the seven seasons (2008-16) he spent coaching the Lincoln Middle School boys’ team, and the time he spent before his stint at LMS as the director of the Cumberland Parks & Recreation Department.

During his time at LMS, Carvalho worked with the current members of this year’s Lions, so taking over as their high school coach “wasn’t a big deal” to him when he ran his first practice three afternoons before the game against Central Falls, which Lincoln won by a 61-51 score.

“It’s been an easy transition for the players and myself since I’ve coached all of them over so many different years,” said Carvalho, whose team came into this week with a 2-2 overall record. “It was just making sure that we were ready to go and making sure I was prepared because the team certainly was.”

While midseason coaching changes are unusual, so are teams dropping down a division after finishing the previous season with an 11-6 record, but that’s what happened to the Lions, who hadn’t enjoyed a winning season in eight years before ending last year in a tie for fourth place in Division II with Shea and East Greenwich and getting as far as the D-II quarterfinals.

“You play the games that they give you to play, and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Carvalho. “We’re going to take things one game at a time, there’s no question, but certainly, our goals are to win the (Central) division and the (Division II) championship and get into the big show, the state tournament. Hopefully, we’ll get an opportunity if we’re good enough.”

Carvalho’s starting five hail from the senior class, featuring three battle-tested captains, 6-foot-3 forward/guard Tommy Beauchemin, who is averaging 20.3 points per game and “is one of the best all-around players in the state,” remarked Carvalho, and guards Nick Juckett, who is averaging 11 points per night (and poured in 20 in the loss to Tolman), and Connor Sheehan, who runs the point.

Center Amana Ojih and power forward Zach Carvalho, the coach’s son, lead the way on the boards.

“We have a lot of senior leaders, and we have some younger kids, along with some other seniors, who all contribute something,” said the Lincoln coach. “We’re only going to succeed if all of us care about one another. Put your teammate first. That’s what I want to see.”

Lincoln returned to action on Wednesday night with a Division III-Central contest across town against Davies – the Lions’ first game against the Patriots in a number of seasons. On Friday, the Lions will host Central’s only other team, Exeter/West Greenwich, at 7 p.m.

“There are some really good teams in Division III, such as Burrillville and Wheeler,” added Carvalho. “But we’re looking forward to these next few months. These kids show up and want to play and that’s the greatest thing about them. I think it’s going to be a fun year.”