WESTERLY — Westerly High boys basketball coach Mike Gleason knew his team had to do one thing in the second half of Tuesday’s Division II game with rival Chariho High if it wanted to win.
The Bulldogs need to change the pace of the contest.
The Bulldogs were able to get in transition and find their shooting touch emerging with a 59-53 hard-fought victory against the Chargers.
Chariho had opened the game in a 2-3 zone defense and the Chargers did a good job of preventing the Bulldogs from getting any easy opportunities.
Chariho (2-2, 1-1) also did a good job on the glass leading to a number of easy breakouts baskets.
Luke Fusaro’s acrobatic drive with 5:48 remaining in the half ended up being a 3-point play as Fusaro was fouled and it gave the Chargers a 15-point lead, 25-10.
Fusaro led the Chargers with 16 points.
Westerly (3-1, 2-) did manage to cut into the deficit as the half closed.
Chariho still led 30-22 at the half.
And when Nathaniel Felicetti hit a 3-pointer and made two free throws to start the second half the Chargers were up, 35-22.
Westerly had opened the second half with a full-court press and the Bulldogs stayed in it for most of the final 16 minutes.
The defense seemed to help the Bulldogs as much on the offensive end as the quicker pace created better scoring opportunities for Westerly.
“We were able to get in transition and we were able to hit some shots,” Westerly coach Mike Gleason said. “I thought if we could get over the hump we would be OK.
“I tip my hat to Chariho. They hit shots in the first half and they defended tremendously.”
Gleason said the change of pace helped the Bulldogs.
“We made them play at our pace. They just couldn’t pack it in on defense,” Gleason said.
Chariho was still leading, 41-37, with 9:41 left in the game when the Bulldogs went on a 15-2 run.
Chas Morgan (17 points) hit a pair of huge 3-pointers in the spurt, one of them deep in the corner and the other from the right wing.
Both shots found nothing but net.
Connor Warner scored seven straight points with a steal and layup, a 3-pointer and a putback of his own miss to give the Bulldogs a 52-43 lead with five minutes left.
“Our team was moving the ball more effectively and following the coach’s game plan,” Warner said. “We just played together as a team.”
Chariho coach Corey Downey said the Bulldogs shot better in the second half.
“They hit shots. Chas did a nice job of keeping his composure and hit big shots. We had a couple of breakdowns in terms of defensive rebounds,” Downey said.
Downey said the Westerly pressure bothered the Chargers more in the second half.
Downey said Westerly’s improved shooting allowed the Bulldogs to spread out the Chariho zone and attack the interior of the defense.
Chariho did cut the lead to five points several times in the final four minutes, but the Bulldogs held on for the victory.
Patrick Murphy finished with 11 points for Westerly.
Levi King finished with 14 for the Chargers including a dunk in the first half on a fast break.
He also had a nice spin move in the lane for a basket.
Felicetti contributed 12 points including a 3-pointer.