WESTERLY — It’s a nice win — over a rival, no less — but it’s not enough. The Westerly High School boys basketball team is gunning for a title it hasn’t won since 2015.
Wednesday night’s 69-63 win over Chariho was a good first step.
“The guys were just saying, ‘We didn’t come here to win one game; we came here to win the whole thing,’” Westerly coach Mike Gleason said after his team’s opening-round victory in the 35th annual WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament.
The Bulldogs will face South Kingstown, a 43-42 winner over Stonington in Wednesday’s early game, for the championship on Friday at 8 p.m.
“They beat us last year in the final, so we’ve got a revenge factor,” Gleason said of the Rebels. “And anytime you play a Division I team … they’re going to be as good as any team we play, so we’re excited to play them.”
Junior guard Chas Morgan paced the Bulldogs with 15 points and added five rebounds and six assists. Bereket Janat recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, Patrick Murphy scored 10 off the bench in the first half, and Jawarie Hamelin contributed seven points, nine assists, seven rebounds and six steals.
“They have a lot of talented players who can do a lot of different things. It’s not just one guy,” Chariho coach Corey Downey said of the Bulldogs. “They’re a really good defensive team. They make things difficult for you and it kind of puts you out of your comfort zone offensively.”
The Westerly defense came up with 13 steals, and the Chargers committed 27 turnovers.
“Nick Lauzon taking two charges in the last five minutes was big,” Gleason said of the junior forward, who finished with six points. “He also had a big defensive rebound, and Bereket gets like 10 to 15 rebounds every game, and it’s great to rely on a guy like that.”
Westerly (5-1) put together a 12-0 run in the second half and led by as many as 17, but the Chargers (2-4) would not go away. The two teams met last week in a Division II league game that Westerly won 59-53.
“That’s the thing about this rivalry. It’s always going to be close and we knew they were going to come back,” Gleason said. “It was just nip and tuck, back and forth. We’d make a run, then they’d make a run back. Playing each other twice in eight days is always interesting, because we know each other very well, we battle very hard and these guys are friends on and off the court. It makes for an interesting battle.”
Luke Fusaro led all scorers with 21 points for the Chargers, who will face Stonington in the consolation game on Friday. Dylan LaBelle finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Levi King and Nathaniel Felicetti each scored 10.
“The biggest thing is, they killed us on the offensive boards,” Downey said. “We did a good job making their first shot difficult, but then they just killed us on the boards. They played hard, they played tough and I give them a ton of credit.”
The Westerly lead was double digits for much of the second half, but the Chargers closed to within five in the final minute. Westerly, though, hit enough free throws down the stretch to keep Chariho at bay.
“At the end they hit some 3s that kept them in the game and we couldn’t quite shake them,” Gleason said. “We knew Coach Downey was going to have these guys prepared, and Chariho didn’t give up.”