Huge second half lifts Vets over Davies
Hot shooting, defense power 'Canes
In the first half of Tuesday’s game at Davies, the Warwick Vets boys’ basketball team shot 23 percent from the field, made just two of 13 three-point attempts and trailed by 17 points.
But head coach Chris LeBlanc didn’t want his team to ease up or take a different approach. He actually wanted the ’Canes to shoot more.
“We should have had 25 attempts from three because we weren’t shooting,” LeBlanc said. “We were passing up shots we normally take. Just keep shooting. That’s our game.”
With their coach’s blessing, the ’Canes fired away in the second half.
And they were glad they did.
The ’Canes made 50 percent of their shots after halftime and buried seven three-pointers. At the other end, they turned up their defensive pressure and forced 14 turnovers.
It all added up to a wild comeback, as Vets out-scored Davies 55-32 in the second half en route to a 73-67 victory. Dom Malaga led the ’Canes with 21 and Scott Camara heated up from long range on his way to 20 points.
It’s the second win in a row for the ’Canes, who improved to 2-7 in league play on the heels of an 0-7 start.
“That’s two in a row, and we had a close game before that against North Smithfield,” LeBlanc said. “We’re coming around. The older kids are stepping up and the younger kids are playing well. It’s coming together. I like it.”
There wasn’t much to like in Tuesday’s first half. After a Travis Babcock bucket with 12:19 left, the ’Canes went almost five minutes without a field goal. In the meantime, Davies put together a 10-0 run to go up 21-6 with 8:09 left.
Vets stopped the bleeding eventually but still struggled to get its footing. A three-minute drought paved the way for Davies to go up by 20. The ’Canes scored five quick points in the final 1:20 of the half but still trailed 35-18 at the break.
Thankfully for Vets, it wasn’t tough to diagnose the problems.
“We weren’t really playing as a team and we weren’t working hard,” said Camara, a sophomore guard. “They were out-working us. So we came out in the second half and out-worked them. Everybody was doing their part on defense and it led to the offense. It was a team effort.”
Vets started its comeback early in the second half. With the team still trailing by 13 at the 11-minute mark, Carter Thomas got a steal and passed it ahead to Will Remak for an easy layup. After two missed free throws by Davies, Camara drained the first of his four second-half three-pointers to get the deficit into single digits. A turnover then led to a putback by Babcock that made it a six-point game with 9:10 left.
That 7-0 run was the beginning of a steady surge for the ’Canes. Starting with Remak’s layup, Vets out-scored Davies 23-10 over the next six minutes and eventually tied the score at 54-54 with 5:05 left.
The run included five Davies turnovers and three-pointers from Camara and Brandon McGuire. Greg Bennett tied the game with a layup after Camara had stolen the ball on the press.
“We like to play our press and try to get turnovers,” LeBlanc said. “We’re not a high-scoring team, so we need those easy baskets.”
After Bennett tied the game at 54, Davies went in front by two on a layup by Jonathan Andrade. Bennett hit a three just 10 seconds later, though, to give Vets its first lead of the game with 4:43 left.
The teams went back and forth over the next minute, but the ’Canes jumped in front for good with 3:04 left when Camara drilled a step-back three to make it 61-59. After the press forced another Davies turnover, Malaga penetrated and dished to Babcock for an easy basket and a four-point lead with 2:45 left.
After that, Davies kept coming but never got closer than two. Malaga converted a three-point play with 1:32 left to push the lead to five, and Vets made five of eight free throws in the final minute to put the game on ice.
“We started to be confident and take shots,” LeBlanc said. “We turned up the pressure, got some turnovers and the rest is history.”
Babcock chipped in 10 points to go with the big efforts from Malaga and Camara. Bennett and McGuire had six points each and Remak added five.
Brendan Daily had a game-high 24 to lead Davies.
The ’Canes are now sitting in fourth place in Division III-Central. They’ll try to stay on the right track when they host 1-6 Mount St. Charles on Friday at 8 p.m.
“Two-game winning streak,” Camara said. “We’re just going to keep working harder.”