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WESTERLY — It may not have been the best played game of the 92 meetings between the boys’ basketball teams from Westerly High and Chariho High, but it was definitely one of the most competitive.
Neither team held more than an eight point advantage at any point in Tuesday’s Division II-South game and the lead changed hands several times but ultimately the Bulldogs prevailed in overtime 60-53.
Westerly held an eight point lead (35-27) about 4 minutes into the second half when the Chargers picked up their intensity.
Chariho (2-4, 0-2 Division II-South) went on an 8-0 run over the next 4½ minutes and tied the score on an Adam Bemis 3-pointer and the game was nip and tuck from that point on.
Bemis scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The two teams committed a total of eight turnovers during the run and the points did not come easy for the Chargers.
“We had (an eight) point lead and they (Chariho) started beating us to loose balls and making transition buckets,” Westerly coach Mike Gleason said.
Over the final 7½ minutes of regulation the lead changed hands six times and the game was tied on five occasions. The constant flux of the game riled the boisterous student fan sections of both teams, which exchanged cheers and chants throughout most of the second half.
The game was tied 51-51 with 1:07 left in regulation but neither team was able to score a basket on either of its final two possessions and the game went to overtime.
Free-throw shooting was the difference in the extra period.
After the teams exchanged field goals to open the final period Westerly went 7 for 8, including 6 for 6 from senior captain Scott Liguori, from the charity stripe and scored the last seven points of the game.
“Scotty and Jacee (Hamelin) came up big and we pretty much owned the boards at the end of the game,” Westerly senior captain Anthony Garro said.
Garro finished with seven points and 13 rebounds.
The Chargers had opportunities to score in the final frame, but missed some open looks and layups.
“We had some opportunities, but they just didn’t go down,” Chariho coach Corey Downey said. “It was just a great basketball game, a great atmosphere.
“I told them after the game I’ve never been more proud of a team. A ton of respect for their effort and tenacity.”
While the Bulldogs hit 14 of 16 free throws in the second half and overtime, the Chargers struggled from the line and went just 3 of 7 over that same period.
Jacee Hamelin, who struggled from the floor (5 of 23 field goals), drew a lot of contact with his aggressive play in the games closing minutes and connected on 12 of his 15 free throws.
“Jacee (Hamelin) obviously took over for them,” Downey said. “He made free throws and that’s what you do to win basketball games. Usually we’re pretty good hitting free throws too.”
Hamelin finished the game two assists shy of a triple double. The sophomore scored 24 points. grabbed 13 rebounds and added eight assists.
Hamelin’s struggles from the field were by no means unique to him during Tuesday’s game.
The Bulldogs (3-4, 1-1 Division II-South) made just 17 of 64 field goal attempts including a number of open looks and layups.
“I was telling them in the locker room we missed a lot of layups,” Gleason said. “We’ve had four practices shortened or canceled due to weather and it’s been tough.
“We’ve had one practice in six days and it showed. The good news is we gutted out a win against a rival, a really tough Chariho team.”
Garro said the tough win might be a sign of good things to come for Westerly.
“Scotty (Liguori) and I missed the first three weeks of the season so it’s nice for us to come together as a group. We’re definitely looking good for the rest of the year.”
Kyle Allen scored 13 points and connected on three 3-pointers including a shot to tie the score 49-49 with less than 2 minutes to play.
While shooting was the problem for Westerly’s offense, turnovers and traveling calls plagued the Chargers.
The Chargers turned the ball over 23 times including seven traveling calls.
“We had a lot of good looks in transition,” Downey said. “Maybe we were a little too quick to try to finish, or try to make a pass or too quick to attack. That was the frustrating part because we had some really good looks in transition.”
Robbie Toth led Chariho with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Toth scored many of his points in the last 7 minutes of the game.
Jake Beauregard scored 13 points for the Chargers, all in the first half.
The Chargers have lost the last 10 games against Westerly and the Bulldogs hold a 60-32 advantage all time in the series, which started in the 1967-1968 season.
Chariho’s last win against Westerly came in the 2007-2008 with a 53-30 win in the WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament consolation game.
Westerly travels to North Providence for its next game Friday at 7 p.m.
The Chargers are also on the road Friday at Cumberland 7 p.m.