Fresh off its first two victories of the season, the Pilgrim boys’ basketball team traveled to Narragansett on Tuesday and flashed some of the positives that paved the way for those victories.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, the best flashes came a little too late.
The Pats put together an impressive 18-4 run in the second half, but when the run started, they were trailing by 25 as the result of a strong start to the half by the Mariners. Pilgrim got within 11 but no closer, as Narragansett held on for a 61-49 victory. The Pats dropped to 2-10 with the loss, while Narragansett improved to 6-6.
“For some reason, we kind of came out flat in the second half,” said Pilgrim head coach Mike Batalon. “Our defensive intensity wasn’t there. We picked it back up, but unfortunately, it was too little too late.”
Pilgrim was coming off victories over Ponaganset and Scituate last week, the team’s first wins of the year. But the Pats knew stretching the win streak to three wouldn’t be easy. Though the Mariners came into Tuesday a game under .500, they’ve played tough against everybody, including the top teams in the league.
The Pats stayed close in the early going before Narragansett went on a 12-3 run in the middle part of the first half. The Pats got a layup from Dan Colabella to stop the surge and make it a nine-point game, but Zach McKanna hit a three on Narragansett’s next trip.
From that point on, the margin never dipped into single digits.
“I think you have to give Narragansett credit,” Batalon said. “They’re kind of an up-and-coming team. They push the ball on the fast break and they run patient half-court sets. We had trouble with that at times. I think our effort was there tonight. Execution wasn’t always there.”
Pilgrim was well within striking distance at halftime, trailing by 12, but the Mariners seized control immediately in the second half. Pat Doyle hit a runner 15 seconds in, before Patrick Degnan stole the ball on the press and drove for a layup to make it a 16-point game.
Cole Furney buried a three on Pilgrim’s next trip, but McKanna answered with a three for the Mariners. After a Doyle layup off another turnover, Furney hit again from long range, only to see McKanna deliver another answer. McKanna then followed with a layup off a turnover.
After Matt Christy momentarily stopped the bleeding with a pull-up jumper, McKanna buried another three to stretch the lead to 21. Dan Doyle then scored four quick points off turnovers to make it 51-26 with 9:52 left. In all, the Mariners outscored the Pats 21-8 in the first 6:08 of the second half.
For Pilgrim, it was a rough stretch. The Pats committed eight turnovers in that span and struggled to stop the Mariners at the defensive end.
“Turnovers have been our Achilles’ heel all season,” Batalon said. “We’re working on cutting them down but it’s a process. Defense is just hard work and desire. At times, we have it. At times, we don’t.”
Pilgrim eventually came to life, and though it wasn’t enough for a victory, it was a positive sign.
On the possession after the lead grew to 25, Luis Pimental hit a three and got fouled, then made the free throw for the four-point play. Ryan Morris followed with a jumper in the lane before Christy hit two free throws to make it a 16-point game.
After a free throw by Pat Doyle, Furney made another three to get it to 15. Dan Doyle converted a three-point play at the other end, but the Pats kept coming. Colabella hit a jumper, Christy buried a three and Colabella hit another short jumper to make it 55-44 with 4:27 left.
Narragansett committed a turnover on its next possession, leaving the door open for the Pats to get the lead to single digits. Instead, the Pats gave the ball right back and Narragansett’s Anthony Nero hit a jumper to make it a 13-point game.
After a Furney free throw, the Mariners gave the ball away twice more, but the Pats continued to come up empty, and eventually, the comeback ran out of time.
Christy, Furney and Morris had 10 points each to lead the Pats. Pimental added eight, Colabella had six and Kaelon Pittman chipped in five. Pat Doyle led all scorers with 17, and McKanna added 16 for Narragansett.
The Pats will try to get back into the win column Friday when they host 3-8 Chariho at 7 p.m.
“I think it’s started to come together a little bit on both ends for us,” Batalon said. “Offensively and defensively, we’re getting better. Guys know where they’re supposed to be on offense and they’re also understanding what it takes to win. We’re seeing flashes of good basketball. I think the best is yet to come for us.”