Watch out for Davies!

Watch out for Davies!

Davies senior guard Raheim Rainey, right, shown talking to head coach Bob Morris during a break in last Thursday night’s Division III victory over Highlander Charter, nearly put together a triple-double to lead the Patriots, as he scored a game-high 33 points and added 10 rebounds and eight steals. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Pawtucket players help boys’ basketball team change program’s fortunes, roll out to 7-0 start

LINCOLN – History has not been kind at all to the Davies Tech boys’ basketball team since the start of the century.

Even since the Patriots, who were led by Pawtucket native and 2,000-point scorer Rohan Russell, reached the Division II playoffs with a 14-6 record in the 1999-2000 season, the program had fallen on very rough times.

Not only has the team failed to put together a winning record over the past two decades, but they have also endured six one-win seasons and five winless ones during that time. And in the 2008-09 campaign, they abruptly pulled the plug on their season after enduring three very lopsided losses.

But this year has been a completely different story, as the Patriots, who are fielding a roster that’s almost entirely made up of Pawtucket players, are taking the Division III ranks by storm.

Late last week, the Patriots picked up their fourth and fifth Division III victories of the season by lighting up the scoreboard in a 100-39 victory on their home court over RIIL newcomer Highlander Charter and a 92-45 win in Providence over the Paul Cuffee School.

And on Monday night, they improved their overall record to 7-0 by passing their toughest test of the season, a 78-75 non-league overtime win over D-II opponent West Warwick.

What has been the secret to the Patriots’ turnaround? Obviously, boasting one of the region’s top players, senior guard Raheim Rainey, is a key, but according to head coach Bob Morris, the reasons for their success are a lot more than just one player.

“Our players have bought into what we want to do,” he said. “We want to run, run, run. And they’re running around, they’re hustling, they’re passing the ball and finding the open man, and they’re filling the lanes. They bought into it and that’s what works best for them.”

Morris, who is also the school’s athletic director and head softball coach, found himself taking over as the head hoop coach when veteran mentor Bill Meekins suddenly stepped down less than a month ago. With time not on his side to find a replacement, the Pawtucket native decided to take over the program and add his assistant coach on his softball team, Paul Labbadia, as his top assistant.

“When we sat down with the kids at the beginning of the year, I said, ‘Listen, we’re changing the way we do things around here,” he said. “We’re going to take pride in what we do. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to win games, and we’re going to try to get Raheim his 1,000 (career points). Those are our goals.’”

Rainey, who was a First-Team All-Division selection on last season’s 6-12 team, has averaged 26.6 points per game this year and needs just eight points to become the seventh player in the team’s existence to reach the exclusive 1,000-point mark.

In last Thursday’s victory over Highlander Charter, Rainey did a little bit of everything and nearly finished the night with a triple-double, as he scored a game-high 33 points and added 10 rebounds and eight steals.

“He’s a freak,” said Morris. “It’s the best way to describe him. But he’s also a leader too. He picks the kids up. He tells them, “Listen, this is what we need to do,’ he gets behind them, and he rallies them on. He’s a true leader.”

Senior forwards Ericsen Semedo and Isaiah Gonsalves and junior guard Jean Preira are the only other full-time players back from last winter, and sophomore forwards Kanz Giwa and Antonio Cabral are also enjoying excellent rookie seasons for the Patriots. Those five players, like Rainey, also hail from Pawtucket.

The win over Highlander Charter also saw Gonsalves score 13 of his 15 points in the opening half and Semedo, Giwa, and Preira each add 12, and last Friday’s victory over Paul Cuffee saw Rainey again lead the way with 23 points and Preira (13 points), Giwa (12), Gonsalves (10), and freshman guard Elton Gomes and Cabral (nine each) provide some balanced scoring.

In Monday’s win, Rainey, who scored a game-high 31 points, with 20 coming in the final quarter and overtime session, won the game in OT by sinking a buzzer-beating three-pointer. Gonsalves also added 17 points and Preira tossed in 15.

The Patriots had kicked off their season in style by defeating three neighboring rivals: North Smithfield in their Jan. 23 opener, 64-43; Mount Saint Charles two nights later, 69-62; and Blackstone Valley Prep on Jan. 27, 61-54.

Two nights after defeating the Pride, Davies headed to Barrington for a non-league game against St. Andrew’s School’s varsity team and rolled to a 60-38 victory.

The Patriots are back at home on Friday with a 6 p.m. matchup against the Prout School, and they are scheduled to wrap up their regular season next week with games against D-III foes Scituate and Ponaganset and another non-league meeting with St. Andrew's. Davies will then set its sights on making its first postseason appearance since the 2003-04 season.

Sophomore forward Kanz Giwa, left, who scored 12 points and added 11 rebounds, and sophomore guard Antonio Cabral, right, had big games for Davies in last Thursday’s lopsided victory. Like most of their teammates, Giwa and Cabral hail from Pawtucket.