WESTERLY — It was a big hole to try to climb out of, but the Chariho High basketball team nearly managed it.
The Chargers trailed by 11 points at halftime and by as many as 15 early in early in the second half of Monday’s WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament consolation game at Westerly High.
Chariho managed to cut it the deficit to two points late in the second half before Exeter-West Greenwich’s late spurt salted the game away and gave the Scarlet Knights a 73-63 win.
“We’ve got to work on that at the start of games,” Chariho coach Corey Downey said. “We cut it to two points, but we just ran out of gas at that point.”
The Knights led 43-28 in the opening minutes of the second half when the Chargers (2-3) started to climb back into the game.
Chariho gradually chipped away at Exeter-West Greenwich’s advantage and trailed by seven with 7 minutes, 10 seconds remaing That is when Jake DiCenzo started to take control of the offensive glass.
The 6-foot-2 inch junior center scored Chariho’s next six points, all off offensive rebounds and cut the Knights’ lead to 58-54 and a Bryan Thweatt jumper made it 58-56 with just over 5 minutes left.
“I think Jake (DiCenzo) came in and gave us a little bit of a lift, he got that first offensive rebound putback and we fed off that a little bit,” Downey said.
DiCenzo finished with 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Chariho dominated the boards in the second half and finished with 43 rebounds.
Robbie Toth and Adam Bemis also had big nights in the low post. Toth scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Bemis had 15 points and 11 boards.
“We were starting to attack a little bit more so that made their big guys step up and we were able to crash the boards a little bit more,” Downey said.
After Chariho closed to within two points, EWG coach Craig Main called timeout to settle his team and Justin Kennedy, as he did all game long, responded with some big baskets.
Kennedy drove for a layup on the Knights next possession, dropped in a 3-pointer on the following possession then followed that with a steal and a layup to extend the lead to nine (65-56) just a minute and half after Chariho had pulled within two.
“He’s capable of doing that every night,” Main said. “He’s a great shooter and he doesn’t take too many bad shots. On a night where he’s 1 for 6 I still want him to take that shot.”
Kennedy said the timeout helped he and his team regain focus.
“Sometimes when the other team starts scoring we get down on ourselves and he (Main) told us in the timeout to just keep playing hard,” Kennedy said. “We got a couple of turnovers, had a couple of layups and I hit a couple of 3s and everyone else started contributing.”
Chariho never got within striking distance again and EWG won by 10.
Kennedy led all scorers with 34 points and hit six 3-pointers.
“I’ve got to give it to Jack (Livsey),” Kennedy said. “Jack helps me a lot and he hits me when I’m open. We all like to help each other out and pass it to whoever’s feeling it. I guess it was just my night.”
Chariho played well in the opening minutes of Monday’s game and held a 10-7 lead at the 3 minute mark of the first half.
The Scarlet Knights started to beat Chariho’s 2-3 zone in transition and with quick passes. Josh Fenton scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half most from the low post.
EWG went on an 18-4 run over the next 6 minutes and built a 25-14 lead. Chariho is off until Friday when it hosts Narragansett at 7 p.m.