Patriots stop skid
Pilgrim isn’t going to remember January as its best month of basketball, but the Pats are doing their best to close it out on a high note.
Pilgrim snapped an eight-game losing streak on Tuesday night with a 66-52 victory over Davies. Cole Furney scored 23 points, Ryan Morris scored 19 and a stout defensive effort paved the way for the team’s first victory since Jan. 4.
On that day, the Pats beat Moses Brown, and looked to be moving in the right direction. It’s been rough ever since, until Tuesday, when Pilgrim played one of its most complete games of the season.
The Pats still have one more game before the month ends, a home match-up with 3-9 Mount St. Charles tonight at 7 p.m.
“We’ve been struggling offensively the past couple weeks,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Batalon said. “Tonight, we were able to hit some shots and we also played good defense, which helped us get some easy baskets.”
Pilgrim improved to 3-10 in Division III-Central, while Davies fell to 2-11 in D-III-North. Yet, the Pats didn’t play like a team battling to get out of the basement.
“Everyone played kind of as you draw it up tonight, so it worked out well,” Batalon said.
Morris, the team’s leading scorer, dominated inside in the first half. He scored 15 points and made seven shots from the floor. With Davies collapsing on Morris, Furney took advantage from the outside, stroking two three-pointers in the first 16 minutes.
Pilgrim jumped out to a 5-0 lead on five points by Furney, fell behind 8-5, then regained the lead at 9-8 and never trailed again. It led by as many as eight points twice in the half before taking a 37-31 lead into the break.
It would have been an even bigger lead if Davies’ Rigo Diminicci hadn’t hit a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down from just inside of half-court in the final minute, keeping Davies within striking distance.
“I was proud of our guys tonight, how they passed the basketball,” Batalon said. “We got the ball inside, we hit some outside shots, we got some easy points in transition.”
Furney got the scoring started in the second half with a steal and a layup in the opening minute, but then Davies closed the gap. Brandon Bernard scored inside, Jonathan Andrade knocked down a jumper and then hit a free throw and Tashon Richards hit a shot to cut Pilgrim’s lead to just 39-38.
The Pats, who had led nearly the entire game and had suddenly gone cold, called a timeout and regrouped.
The large lead that was whittled down was a familiar script for Pilgrim, which had played Davies in a non-league game early in the season and saw the same thing happen. The Pats hung on by just two points in that first meeting.
“In an earlier meeting against us they narrowed it down right until the end of the game,” Furney said. “This time, we said we weren’t going to let it happen again. We came out firing.”
Furney scored the Pats’ first point in nearly five minutes with a free throw, and then Charles Johnson knocked down a step-back three from the wing.
Following a Davies miss, Johnson buried another three. Davies turned the ball over thanks to Pilgrim’s aggressive man defense – which it played nearly the entire game – and Morris scored on a fast break.
After Andrade hit a turnaround jumper to momentarily halt the run for Davies, Furney banged home another three-pointer to put Pilgrim ahead 51-40 with 8:32 left.
“It was good,” Batalon said. “Once the game got close, our defensive intensity picked up and got us the lead back comfortably.”
Furney scored again soon afterwards to make it 53-40, and he facilitated another bucket two possessions later when he penetrated and handed the ball off to Dan Colabella, who easily laid it in.
It was an emotional game for Furney, who came to the gym following the wake of his aunt. He played inspired.
“I was feeling good,” Furney said. “I had an aunt who passed away, and I was at her wake. My uncle told me on the way out to play inspired. I was feeling it, so I tried to keep shooting.”
Brendan Rix hit a short jumper on Pilgrim’s next possession before Furney knocked down his fourth three of the game, putting Pilgrim up 60-42 with just under five minutes to play.
“He’s probably our best all-around player,” Batalon said of Furney. “He’s definitely our best defensive player, and we ask him to do a lot. He scores for us, he plays defense and he handles the ball a little bit. He had a great game tonight.”
Besides the big nights for Furney and Morris, Johnson had seven points, Seth Lawson had six and Colabella and Rix each had five. Dominicci led the way for Davies with 12 points, and Andrade and Keron Aird each scored 10.
Pilgrim is still alive for the playoffs, but it will need to win the majority of its games down the stretch to have a shot. Following the Mount game today, the Pats will travel to 8-5 Burrillville on Monday for a 6:45 p.m. game.