WARWICK — Westerly High boys basketball coach Mike Gleason has seen some pretty good North Kingstown teams during his 13 years at the Bulldogs helm.
But this current group might just be the best one yet. The second-seeded Skippers sure looked the part after zipping past No. 7 Westerly, 100-64, in the state tournament quarterfinals Sunday at CCRI-Warwick.
North (25-3), the Division I tournament champion, has won 14 straight. Coach Aaron Thomas graciously pulled his starters with 9:12 remaining and the Skippers up by 38, 80-42.
"They are a lot different than any other North Kingstown team," Gleason said. "They may have had more talent in the past, but this is definitely their best team. They have to be the favorite moving forward."
North will play No. 3 Cranston East at 6 p.m. in Saturday's semifinals at the University of Rhode Island. No. 5 Woonsocket and No. 16 Cumberland will meet at 4.
East edged Mount Pleasant, 59-57, Cumberland topped Toll Gate, 76-51, and Woonsocket got past Barrington, 82-71, in other quarterfinal games Sunday.
Westerly fell behind 10-0 after the first three minutes. But the Bulldogs responded and only trailed 11-7 after a 10-footer from the baseline by Connor Warner, who finished with 16 points.
North led 32-15 with 5:54 left in the first half, but Westerly was still within striking distance. A 3-pointer from Chas Morgan (14 points) cut the NK lead to 12, 37-25, with 3:45 left in the half.
From there, NK outscored the Bulldogs 14-2 to end the half and lead by 24, 51-27.
North was able to get the ball out in transition thanks to its defensive rebounding. And the Skippers had a good shooting night, which, it seems, they do most games.
Ben Masse, who finished with 25 points, scored 15 in the first six minutes of the game. Masse had four 3-pointers on the night, including one from deep in the corner.
"They hit six out of nine 3-pointers in the first half and I thought four or five of them were well contested," Gleason said. "We knew if they hit contested 3s, we were in trouble."
In the second half, Westerly scored 13 points in the first three minutes, but still trailed 64-40. The Skippers then outscored Westerly 18-2 to lead by 40, 82-42.
Clay Brochu, another outstanding shooter, finished with 18 points and post player Dylan Poirier had 15. Poirier (6-foot-3, 255) was the football Gatorade Player of the Year in the fall and will play at the University of New Hampshire next season.
He's a full load, but he can move.
"They put No. 21 (Poirier) on the block and surround him with four really, really good shooters," Gleason said. "And the point guard can get by anybody. They spread it out, they get it inside and if you don't help it's a layup for No. 21, and if you do help he kicks out."
Jawarie Hamelin finished with nine points, and Bereket Janat had eight points and a team-high 11 rebounds for Westerly.
It was the final game for Janat and fellow senior Cole Riley, who scored five points.
"Bereket is a great leader who gets us in the right spots offensively and defensively. And Cole turned into a grinder and he just gave us toughness this year," Gleason said. "He was our second-highest rebounder (7.5) in league games."
Westerly played without guard Byron Dunn due to illness. Dunn is a part of the rotation in the Westerly press. Gleason said the Bulldogs might have pressed more if he had played. But he was uncertain how effective it would have been, particularly on a larger college floor.
"Getting in a track meet with that team on this court would have been very tough to handle," Gleason said.