WESTERLY — Chariho High figured to have its hands full containing South Kingstown’s twin towers Wedneday in the WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament opening round.
While SK’s 6-foot-8 Keegan Records (12 points, six blocked shots) and 6-5 Lawrence Shepard Jr. (11 points) dominated at times, the smaller Chargers largely contained them.
But they had no answer for SK senior 6-1 guard Darian Butler, who not only scored four baskets on offensive rebounds, but hit four 3-pointers in a dazzling 23-point effort in the Rebels’ 68-41 win.
SK, off to a 4-1 start in Division I, plays Westerly 8 p.m. Friday in the WCCU final. The Rebels lost a one-point WCCU title game to D-II Chariho last season. With four returning starters back, including Butler, a two-time WCCU all-tourney team selection, the Rebels are poised to make noise in this tourney as well as postseason play.
“With Records and Butler, they have two of the top five players in the state and have a legitimate chance to win the states,” Chariho coach Corey Downey said. “I’m pleased with our overall effort in terms of matching their physicality and we did a great job defending Records, but we just didn’t execute in some important areas.”
Chariho (3-2) hung within 29-19 at halftime thanks to guard Dylan LaBelle’s nine points. Downey liked the tempo of the game despite the fact the Chargers did score enough in transition and missed open shots in the halfcourt set.
“We were one of thirteen on three pointers in the first half,” Downey said. “We needed to push the ball up court more because in the halfcourt, SK’s zone does a great job spreading us out with their length.”
Chariho forward Tom Longolucco opened the second half with a conventional 3-point play to cut the lead to 29-22. SK responded with an inside surge of dominance. Shepard made a pair of three-point plays, Records scored inside and the leaping Butler tipped in a miss to complete a 10-0 run to make it, 39-22. The Chargers did never did reduce the deficit to less than 10 points the rest of the way.
With eight minutes left, SK spurted to an 11-2 run, thanks to Butler’s seven points, to up the margin to 58-36.
“Darian is very explosive, he’ grown to 6-1 and he’s worked hard on his overall game,” SK coach Roland Fiore said. “He can dunk very easily and has improved a lot. He’s crashed the boards well all season. Teams expect our big guys to crash, but when Darian does it, it breaks their backs.”
Dylan LaBelle led Chariho with 11 points. Longolucco added nine points and six rebounds. Chariho did not back away from challenging Records and getting physical with him underneath. Records did block six shots, but he did not attempt a free throw.
“That’s been a pattern all year — teams getting physical with Keegan and not enough fouls being called on him,” Fiore said. “It’s getting to the point where he’s not being able to show his skill. But we’re happy where we are now. This is a nice tournament, giving us a playoff atmosphere that will help us down the road.”
Chariho plays Stonington Friday in the consolation at 6:15 p.m.