WOOD RIVER JCT. — Westerly High's Jesse Samo was open at the top of the key fervently clapping his hands Monday night at Chariho High.
Samo needed the basketball.
When the freshman forward received it, he let go with a dagger 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a six-point lead over the rival Chargers with 1:25 remaining.
Samo had dropped another 3-pointer from the left baseline just 25 seconds earlier to break a tie and he later added a free throw as the Bulldogs held on for a 65-60 boys basketball win over the Chargers.
It was another outstanding contest between the two longtime rivals.
"At that point in the game I was feeling it," said Samo, who finished with 17 points. "Coach tells me when I'm open to take the shot."
Westerly junior guard Dante Wilk agreed with coach Mike Gleason when it comes to Samo.
"That's what I like to see [from Samo]," Wilk said. "At the beginning of the season, he played scared in the first two games. But I told him he has the green light and he should take the shot."
Chariho still made it interesting.
Jarrett Boisclair hit a 3-pointer to pull the Chargers within three, 63-60, with 11.2 seconds left. But Westerly's Bryon Dunn converted a layup on a length-of-the-floor pass with 6.2 to go to put the game out of reach.
Wllk was a force himself, finishing with 26 points, including 11 in the first 3½ minutes of the game when the Bulldogs took a 13-0 lead.
He was able to drive to the basket hard and finish strong.
Westerly's fulll-court pressure defense gave the Chargers fits early in the first half. Over the first 3½ minutes, Chariho had four turnovers, a 10-second violation and a 5-second violation.
"It's hard to simulate that pressure in practice," Chariho coach Corey Downey said. "After that I thought we did a pretty good job."
Chariho closed the first quarter strong on back-to-back 3-pointers by Jaxson Morkis and Chris Niziolekto, leaving the Chargers trailing by two, 17-15.
Westerly outscored the Chargers 10-2 to open the second quarter and took a 27-17 lead on a Samo 3-pointer with 5:08 to go.
The Bulldogs led 39-26 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Bulldogs appeared to take control for good, building a 17-point lead thanks to their pressure defense.
"When you get turnovers, it gets you going," Wilk said.
But Gleason had warned his team earlier in the game the Chargers would not go away.
"I told the guys in the first timeout of the game that Chariho isn't going anywhere," Gleason said. "They will get back in the game and they did. They are gritty and they have a lot of pride."
Chariho did get back in the game in a big way, outscoring Westerly 12-1 to close the third quarter to only trail 50-44.
Boisclair, who finished with 21 points, had a 3-pointer and a driving basket during the spurt.
"We started missing shots when they went zone and started settling for 3s in the third quarter and that led to layups on the other end," Gleason said.
Downey said the Chargers did a better job of contesting Westerly shots in the second half.
"It was too easy for them to get to the basket in the first half," Downey said.
Chariho continued to push and took its first lead of the game, 54-53, on a 3-pointer from deep in the right corner by Nate Allen with 4:16 left.
Chariho had outscored the Bulldogs 22-6 in a stretch that started in the third quarter.
"They just outscrapped us," Wilk said. "We were just playing lazy and they caught us in the fourth quarter."
Wilk later tied the game at 56 on a strong drive with 2:37, left setting up Samo's big moments.
Westerly freshman Ben Gorman had a number of big rebounds down the stretch and led the Bulldogs with seven for the game. Gorman also contributed seven points.
Tyler LaBelle scored eight points for the Chargers. Liam Flynn and Niziolek added seven each.
"I am really, really proud of the effort," Downey said. "The last 10 minutes of the game was our best basketball of the season. We settled down our minds and were able to be more physical."
Due to the pandemic, the game was played before no fans in a relatively silent Chariho gym, a stark contrast to the raucous atmosphere that usually accompanies games between the two schools, particularly at Chariho where the capacity is just 563 fans.
"We did miss that," Downey said. "The gym would have been shaking."
Westerly next hosts Barrington on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Chario next travels to Mt. Hope on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Tyler LaBelle 3 1-2 8, Jarrett Boisclair 8 3-4 21, Logan Smallridge 0 1-2 1, Jaxson Morkis 2 0-0 6, Chris Niziolek 3 0-0 7, Zoot Boschwitz 0 3-4 3, Liam Flynn 2 3-4 7, Kyle McGovern 2 0-0 4, Nate Allen 1 0-0 3, Nekoda Thompson 0-0 0. Totals: 21 11-16 60.
Jesse Samo 6 2-4 17, Dante Wilk 10 4-6 26, Byron Dunn 2 0-1 4, Marcus Haik 1 0-0 2, Max Bertsch 2 0-0 5, Josh Randall 0 0-0 0, Bryce Holden 0 0-0 0, Jackson Ogle 0 0-0 0, Ben Gorman 3 1-2 7, Brayden Chiaradio 1 2-4 4. Totals: 25 9-17 65.
Westerly 17 22 11 15 — 65
Chariho 15 11 18 16 — 60
3-point field goals: Westerly (6) — Samo 3, Wilk 2, Bertsch. Chariho (7) — Boisclair 2, Morkis 2, LaBelle, Niziolek, Allen.
Rebounds: Westerly (35) — Gorman 7, Wilk 6, Samo 5, Ogle 5, Dunn 3, Chiaradio 3, Haik 2, Bertsch 2, Randall, Holden. Chariho — Unavailable.