EAST PROVIDENCE — Bounced from the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs the prior by eventual league champion LaSalle, the East Providence High School boys’ basketball team gets one …
EAST PROVIDENCE — Bounced from the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs the prior by eventual league champion LaSalle, the East Providence High School boys’ basketball team gets one last chance at doing some damage before the end of the 2022-23 season when it begins play in the Open State Championship Tournament this week.
The 11th-seeded Townies, making their seventh consecutive appearance in the event, travel to Providence Thursday night, March 2, for a Round of 16 meeting with sixth-seeded Classical. Tipoff is 6 p.m. (Note, the 2020 tourney was canceled with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Both teams are coming off losses in their most recent outings, the Townies by a 60-49 count to the rival Rams and Classical to eventual league runner-up Bishop Hendricken, 69-44, in the D-I semis. LaSalle used a buzzer-beater to edge the Hawks for the title, 47-45.
EPHS and the host Purple have met already this winter, a Division I league outing at the same venue in January when Classical led throughout en route to a 75-57 win also in Providence. Jayveeon Gonsalves led the locals with 16 points. Trey Rezendes had 13, Kenaz Ochgwu chipped in nine and Will Winfield eight. Xavier Hazard, EP’s leading scorer for most of the season, was held to just five.
Andrade pointed to a trio of players who spur Classical: Evenson St Franc, Azariah Harrison and Eliezer Delbrey. It will be imperative the Townies keep them in check while having their own trio of standouts — Rezendes, Hazard and Max Collins — play at their best if the locals hope to advance.
“It’s a tough matchup for us. They’re big, long, athletic,” EPHS head coach Joe Andrade said of the Purple. “When they’re whole, when they’re healthy, I think they’re one of the better teams in the state, and I think totally healthy now.”
Awaiting the EPHS-Classical winner in the quarterfinals will be either third-seeded Johnston, which won the D-II title last weekend, or another familiar D-I foe, 14th-seeded Smithfield. The top-seeded Panthers won three times in their league playoffs, including a 59-52 victory over Middletown in the championship game. The Sentinels were smoked by Hendricken, 62-32, in the league quarters.
EP also fell to visiting Smithfield 74-66 on Super Bowl Sunday, February 12. The visiting Sentinels outscored their hosts 24-10 in the second period to go from being down by six (17-11) at the end of the first quarter to down by eight (35-27) at intermission in what proved the decisive spurt of the contest.
Rezendes led three in double figures for EPHS with 14. Collins, who was making his way back into the Townies’ lineup after nearly a month away with injury, and Hazard had 13 each.
“I’m not looking past Classical because like I said I think they’re one of the most talented teams in the state,” Andrade added. “But if we’re fortunate enough to get past them I think we match up well with both of those teams. But Johnston is a very good team and we lost to Smithfield, so you never know.”
The quarters are scheduled for Sunday, March 5, at Rhode Island College’s Walsh Gym. The EP-Classical winner plays the Smithfield-Johnston winner at 2 p.m.