WESTERLY — At times, Westerly High looked pretty good in its boys basketball season opener against Division I North Kingstown on Thursday night.
At times, the Division II Bulldogs could have done some things better. Westerly lost to the Skippers, 76-58, at Federico Gym, but coach Mike Gleason saw enough good things to give him optimism.
“I feel real good about our team. We play NK in the Injury Fund every year knowing they are one of the tougher teams in the state,” Gleason said. “They play really, really good defense and make you feel uncomfortable, which is what you want in a nonleague game. I thought we battled and played hard.”
North, generally one of the better Division I teams in the state, went 10 deep and often played different units of five.
A number of NK starters played in the Division II football Super Bowl on Sunday, defeating Moses Brown.
“[Ryan] Maloney and [Joe] Gilmartin are pretty banged up, and [Dylan] Poirier had five sacks. You could tell we were a little out of shape,” NK coach Aaron Thomas said. “That’s why we went with the philosophy of five at a time.”
Westerly trailed 35-26 at the half, but cut the deficit to four, 35-31, on a Taber Gates 3-pointer and an inside basket by Patrick Murphy off a nice feed from Gates.
NK was forced to call a timeout less than three minutes into the half after the Westerly spurt.
“I thought our defense was better the first five to six minutes of the second half,” Gleason said. “We got a little more physical and fought over screens better.”
NK responded out of the timeout by rolling off eight straight points, including a deep baseline 3-pointer by Maloney to take a 43-31 lead.
Westerly used a press later in the second half, and a John Luzzi driving shot in the lane cut the deficit to seven, 48-41, with 9:20 left. But the Skippers responded once again, pushing the lead to 13 points, 57-44, with about seven minutes left.
Westerly had one more brief spurt. Gates and Chas Morgan hit back-to-back 3-pointers to leave the Bulldogs trailing, 64-56, with 2:22 left. But NK outscored Westerly 12-2 to end the game.
Gates led the Bulldogs with 21 points and Morgan contributed 15. Gates also led the team with six rebounds. Murphy had eight points. Westerly played without 6-foot-8 senior forward David Tiedemann, who is nursing a knee injury.
Clay Brochu led NK with 17 points, while Gilmartin and Nicholas Sacchetti had 12 each.
“They bump you on every cut and they hedge on every screen,” Gleason said. “They make you do things offensively you don’t want to do.
“When we reversed the ball and got good looks on the opposite side, I thought we did well. I feel real good about our season right now.”
Westerly travels to Charlestown, Mass., on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game.