With only two wins – and none over teams even close to .500 – the Warwick Vets boys’ basketball team hadn’t made much of an impression across the Division III landscape heading into Tuesday’s match-up with Scituate.
It’s safe to say that the ’Canes have now left their mark.
Vets battled back from a 14-point, second-half deficit thanks to eight three-pointers after the break and shocked the Spartans 67-61.
Will Remak scored 26 points, including six three’s, and the ’Canes executed their run-and-gun style to perfection when it mattered most. Josh Muto added four three’s as well.
“I would say that’s probably the best we’ve shot,” Vets head coach Chris LeBlanc said. “I don’t think it’s crazy to say that it’s not an aberration that we made 11 three’s. We finally are shooting better.”
Scituate, which came into the game at .500, fell to 5-6 in Division III-West, while Vets improved to 3-8 in D-III-Central. But if it shoots like it did on Tuesday in the future, the wins could start to pile up. Prior to the game, Vets had only beaten winless St. Patrick and two-win Pilgrim, and it had been on a three-game losing streak.
“We had a lot of open shots in the first half and we couldn’t make them,” LeBlanc said. “I think that’s sort of like our mantra this season. Then we finally decided to score, and that was a good thing.”
The ’Canes fell behind 15-13 in the first half and watched Scituate extend that lead out to 33-25 at the break. Spartans’ standout Ryan Cabral poured in three shots from behind the arc and finished the half with 17 points.
Still, Vets had plenty of open shots in the first, but just didn’t make many. It shot just 3-of-15 from three, and 12-of-31 overall. With the looks the team was getting, it felt like something had to give.
“We felt pretty good,” sophomore Kyle Rice said. “We realized that we had to come out with more intensity. Our shots weren’t falling. Our shots fell in the second half.”
Scituate came out hot again, getting a three by Cabral to go up 40-27 early in the half, and a putback by Wyatt Laprade put the Spartans up 46-32 with 10 minutes to play.
Then the shots began to fall for the ’Canes, and they never stopped falling the rest of the game.
Remak got the comeback started with a long three to make it 46-35. Scituate scored on the other end before two Carter Thomas free throws brought the deficit back to 11. A Spartans’ turnover led to a fast-break for the ’Canes and Muto pulled up and knocked down a three to make the score 48-40.
“With anything, it’s confidence,” LeBlanc said. “Once we got a little confidence, that was pretty good.”
The teams traded misses and then traded buckets before Remak struck again. He showed no hesitation with a hand in his face, knocking down another three to get Vets within 50-45 at the 7:18 mark. Two possessions later, Israel Thomas made a jumper, was fouled and knocked down the free throw, getting the ’Canes within four.
Following another Scituate miss, Muto hit his second three of the half to cut the deficit to one. Three straight points from Scituate’s Collins Omollo put the Spartans back in front by four, but Vets was far from finished.
Down by those four points with 3:46 to play, Muto found Rice in the corner and the sophomore knocked down a big three for his first points of the game.
“I try not to think about it too much, because my shot has been a little off lately and I’ve been thinking about it,” Rice said. “I tried to shoot without thinking tonight, and it worked out well.”
Scituate tried to inbound the ball quickly following the three but Vets stole it and kicked it out to Remak on the wing. He hit yet another three, giving the ’Canes a two-point advantage at 59-57. It was their first lead since 13-11.
“It makes me feel a lot more comfortable when I see my teammates shooting the lights out,” Rice said. “It gets my confidence out. Shooting’s contagious I think.”
Scituate missed on the other end and Remak hit a short jumper to extend the lead to four points. Another Scituate miss led to a Remak pull-up three, and he connected one more time to make the score 64-57. It was his fifth three of the half and sixth of the game.
Cabral temporarily got Scituate back in it with a three, but Rice scored on a strong drive to the hoop right afterwards. Rice hit one free throw down the stretch, forced a jump ball and created a turnover on Scituate’s final possession to finish off an enormous win for the ’Canes.
“I’ve got some super sophomores, and they’ve been playing their age at the beginning of the season,” LeBlanc said. “I keep telling these guys that we need to keep growing a little bit at a time. He played great today.”
Scituate was led by Cabral with 23 points, only six of which came in the second half. His brother Evan Cabral scored 14 points, but Vets did a much better job on both players after the break.
“They pretty much have the two Cabral brothers that are their scorers,” LeBlanc said. “It’s not a secret. I think we held Evan to 14 points. I didn’t think Ryan Cabral was that much of a scorer, he turned out to be. So we made an adjustment in the second half and we slowed him down.”
For Vets, Remak had 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-12 from three. Muto and Carter Thomas each had 14, while Rice scored six points. As a team, the ’Canes shot 8-for-16 in the second half from behind the arc, accounting for 24 of their 42 second-half points. They turned the ball over only nine times in the entire game.
“We’ve been playing good halves, and then a little more, so it was good to put 32 minutes together,” LeBlanc said.
Vets will now try to build on the win on Friday when it travels to winless Davies for a 6:15 p.m. tip. On Monday, the ’Canes will host 3-8 Mount at 7 p.m. Wins in those games would get Vets back in the thick of things.
“It’s a good confidence boost for us,” Rice said. “We’ll just hope to continue it against Davies on Friday.”