With time running short in Saturday’s Division III preliminary round playoff game, the No. 7-seeded Warwick Vets’ boys basketball team found itself trailing No. 10 Scituate by seven points.
Apparently, the Hurricanes had the Spartans right where they wanted them. Thanks to big plays from several Hurricanes, Vets ended the game on a 15-4 run to win 54-50 on their home floor and clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.
Vets will play No. 2 Mt. Hope on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Rogers High School.
“I think we play well under pressure,” Vets head coach Chris LeBlanc said after the game. “I think we play well when the game gets a little heated, and I think that worked to our advantage for sure.”
That advantage came to fruition all in a matter of the last few possessions. Senior Will Remak hit two clutch three-point shots on his way to 28 points, junior Josh Muto had a steal and a fast-break layup and senior Justin Batista came up with two game-changing steals – one in the final four seconds of the game with Vets leading 53-50 – to sign, seal and deliver the win for the Hurricanes.
LeBlanc said it’s not surprising that his team created opportunities down the stretch – it’s been evident with this group throughout this season.
“They have been doing that all year, so this game is the way I expected it to be,” LeBlanc said.
Scituate had taken control mainly due to an 18-4 stretch in the second half. Junior Collins Omollo posted 26 points for the Spartans.
But Vets had the last laugh thanks to the play of Remak, Muto and Batista. It was Batista’s defense that sparked the late surge.
“Justin [Batista] plays incredible defense,” Remak said. “He locks me up in practice, I won’t lie, and he is the best defensive player in the state. No doubt.”
Muto, Vets’ floor general, posted 15 points in the game but also heaped praise on his backcourt mate.
“He is probably one of the best defenders I have ever seen,” Muto added. “When he plays me in practice, I can’t do anything.”
Remak powered the offense in the comeback. His 28 points were a game-high and he hit eight three-pointers.
“My teammates gave me the ball in the right spot, right where my hands were,” Remak said.
The win secured a spot in the Division III quarterfinals opposite Mt. Hope. In a January meeting, Vets lost 71-60 to the Huskies, who finished with a 15-3 record.
“We are going to play them hard just like we played them the first time,” LeBlanc said.