WESTERLY — Stonington High’s boys’ basketball team earned a date with Westerly in the WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament finals with its first victory of the young season.
The Bears took their first lead with 9:40 left in the first half and stayed on top the rest of the way for a 52-45 victory against Chariho in the second game of Friday night’s doubleheader at Federico Gym.
Westerly defeated Exeter-West Greenwich 62-59 in the opener. The two old rivals will meet for the title on Monday at 8 p.m.
Chad Barclay got the first win of his Stonington coaching career.
“The first one’s always the hardest,” he said. “We got that one out of the way now, hopefully things will be a lot smoother. I think it’s going to pick us up tremendous. I think our kids really needed that first win.”
Stonington lost its first three games decidedly.
Chariho (2-2) had a bad shooting night and committed far too many turnovers.
“I’m at a loss to be honest with you,” Chariho coach Corey Downey said. “I think we weren’t tough enough in the first half. We were turning the basketball over too many times, had good looks and shots didn’t go down. It’s one game, but it’s disappointing because we didn’t play our best effort tonight.”
The Chargers went 4 of 27 from behind the 3-point line despite at least a dozen wide- open looks. It was almost as if the Bears were daring the bigger Chargers to shoot them.
“By design to a point. It was a little too much at points,” Downey said. “We were trying to get it down low, we just couldn’t do it, we were turning the basketball over too much. We played very tentatively offensively tonight.
“We’ve had some games where we’ve shot 50 percent from 3, so it’s not like we can’t do it. It’s part of our offense.”
Matt Donahue led Stoningon in scoring with 15 points. Jack Dipollino had eight. Divante White and Riley Sorrento each had seven.
White was the biggest force for the Bears for much of the game, hitting the boards, defending and even assisting on one occasion.
But with 5:28 remaining White was slapped with a technical foul after being called for a foul on Chariho’s Adam Bemis.
The Chargers trailed 39-33 before the foul but didn’t capitalize like they could have.
Robbie Toth made one of the two technical free throws and Bemis (a team-high 10 points) made one of the two for the common foul. The Chargers also got the ball but missed a wide open 3.
Two free throws on a one-and-one by C.J. Dipollino gave the Bears a 42-35 lead with 4:19 left. He duplicated the feat at 3:43 to make it 45-35 — Stonington’s biggest lead.
White fouled out with 3:10 to go and Toth made both foul shots bringing Chariho within 45-39.
And when guard Jake Beauregard hit a nice driving layup after a bigger man picked him the Chargers were within 45-41 withh 2:44 left.
Stonington’s Ethan Murphy blocked Chariho’s next shot.
The Bears kept Charger hopes alive by going 2 of 6 at the foul line between 1:45 and 1:05 and Chariho was within one possession at 48-45 after a putback by Toth with 23.1 seconds left.
Stonington inbounded the ball to Donahue in the corner. He was trapped, but the Chargers fouled him with 21.5 remaining.
Donahue made both attempts. After a missed 3-pointer by the Chargers, Stonington’s Riley Sorrento made two more with 4.8 to go to finally put the win in the books.
Asked what he said during the many timeouts down the stretch, Barcaly said: “I just told them to relax, they got to come to us. We got the clock on our side, don’t make any bad choices, turnovers, let them foul you, go to the line, deep breath, bend the knees and hit them.”
Chariho played virtually the entire game without senior Zach Wallander, the team’s best returning player. Wallander, who scored 20 points in the season opener, played about one minute.
“He’s sick. I don’t know what his deal is. He’s been sick for two weeks now. He’s missed three games,” Downey said.