LaBelle 1,000

Chariho's Dylan LaBelle poses with his teammates and coaches after scoring the 1,000th point of his career Friday night against Middletown. | Ken Sorensen, The Westerly Sun

WOOD RIVER JCT. — The goal, first and foremost, was to win the game.

But for the Chariho High boys basketball team, there was also the matter of a milestone for Dylan LaBelle, who was within striking range of reaching 1,000 career points on his home court.

The Chargers achieved both objectives Friday night.

LaBelle, needing 20 points to hit 1,000, scored 21, Luke Fusaro had 23 and Chariho rolled past Middletown, 81-63, in a Division II game.

The victory was the fifth straight for the Chargers (11-8, 10-5 Division II).

LaBelle scored career points 998, 999 and 1,000 on a wide-open 3-pointer near the baseline — directly in front of Chariho's student section — with 7:06 left in the game.

The crowd, well aware of the shot's potential significance, seemed to hold its collective breath before it swished through the net.

"They were ready," said LaBelle, a senior guard. "When it first happened, I was speechless. I was praying that shot would go down."

Lucas Santos drove the lane before finding LaBelle for the historic basket that gave the Chargers a 63-47 lead. It was one of Santos' seven assists, and LaBelle's fourth and final 3-pointer of the contest.

The game was stopped briefly as LaBelle, teammates and coaches posed for photographs.

"It was definitely emotional," LaBelle said. "It felt like a big relief almost. Then we just had to come back and focus on the game, which I thought we did a pretty good job of."

Middletown (6-13, 5-11) got as close as 13, 65-52, with about six minutes remaining, but a Levi King steal and dunk, a LaBelle free throw and a Fusaro 3-pointer put Chariho up 73-52 and all but sealed the victory, the Chargers' seventh in their last eight games.

Chariho took command of the game with a 10-2 run midway through a sloppy first half.

King started things with a steal and long pass to Santos for a breakaway layup to give the Chargers a 22-17 lead. And King finished the run with another steal, followed by an outlet pass to Santos, who found Fusaro for a layup to make it 32-22.

By halftime, Chariho led 37-23 despite turning the ball over 11 times (19 for the game). The Islanders were even more careless with the ball in the first period, turning it over 14 times (18 for the game).

Middletown was able to get its pick-and-roll offense going early in the second half, but could never make up any ground on Chariho.

"Our defense wasn't that great," Chargers coach Corey Downey said. "We were kind of losing our responsibilities defensively. But we really did a great job on the offensive end of the floor. Fusaro, Levi — Luke did a great job of attacking the basket." 

Fusaro had two nice spin moves that led to layups in the second half, and he made three 3-pointers en route to his game-high 23 points.

King, meanwhile, was a factor on both ends of the court all night, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds and six steals. And Santos, in addition to his seven assists, had 10 points and helped slow Middletown's Rasheed Lozada, an 18.8-points-per-game scorer coming in who had 17 points but many coming late in the second half when the game was decided.

Still, the night belonged to LaBelle.

"Obviously it's special for him to do it here [at home]," Downey said. "He's such a special young man. I say it over and over again that he's a great scorer. But two more things are more important. He's a really good defender, and at the end of the day, he's a really, really good person.

"To watch him grow the past four years has been really fun for me."

Chariho travels to league-leading Narragansett for a 7 p.m. game on Tuesday.

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