Portsmouth holds off Shea to win inside near-empty field house

Boys’ and girls’ teams both qualify for Elite 8, but RIIL cancels remaining winter tournaments

By Jim McGaw
Posted 3/13/20

PORTSMOUTH — Playing against a soundtrack of squeaking sneakers, play-calling, and minimal cheering from the stands, the Portsmouth High School boys’ varsity basketball team held off …

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Portsmouth holds off Shea to win inside near-empty field house

Boys’ and girls’ teams both qualify for Elite 8, but RIIL cancels remaining winter tournaments

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Playing against a soundtrack of squeaking sneakers, play-calling, and minimal cheering from the stands, the Portsmouth High School boys’ varsity basketball team held off a surging Shea team, 80-70, in a quiet PHS field house Thursday night.

Fewer than 80 people — including players — were inside the building due to precautions being taken due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). 

No tickets were sold for the game, the opening round of the state open tournament. PHS Athletic Director Stephen Trezvant said each Portsmouth player was allowed three tickets for family or friends. Shea was advised to limit the number of people they brought to the game to 50, although far fewer than that showed. 

The game was simulcast on the Internet, and about 100 people were viewing at the start of the game, Mr. Trezvant said.

“Just trying to keep people safe,” he said.

The win would have advanced the Patriots to the Elite 8 this weekend against La Salle, but due to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s announcement Friday that public schools will be closed next week, the R.I. Interscholastic League ordered the remainder of all winter sports tournaments to be canceled. (See related story.)

On Thursday, the Patriots showed signs of a bit of a hangover after being crowned Division II champions on March 8. Either that, or playing to a near-empty gym and not being able to feed off the cheers of their fans eliminated the home-court advantage. 

Whatever the case, the No. 4-seeded Patriots were up by only three points with over a minute left against Shea, the No. 14 seed.

“Yeah, we certainly didn’t make this one easy on ourselves,” said Patriots head coach Joe Occhi, noting the lack of loud cheering could have been a factor. “It’s very strange. I don’t know if we every really adjusted.”

While Portsmouth ended up winning by 10 points, that was mainly due to a flurry of fouls called against one of the Raiders’ best players, senior guard Erickson Bans, who displayed his frustration with the officiating down the stretch.

A run by Shea had cut Portsmouth’s lead to 73-70 with 1:10 left. But then the Patriots’ Jack Bielawa stole the ball and drove for a layup, making 75-70 with 40 seconds on the clock.

That’s when Bans, whose strong shooting had helped his team close the gap — he finished with 37 points — momentarily lost his composure. He was called for a foul on PHS senior Justin Parsons and then was ejected after getting hit with a double-technical for voicing his displeasure too forcefully. 

“He got a little hot,” Mr. Occhi said. “He’s a very good player. He was angry as they started to fall away. He fouled Justin, didn’t agree with the call, and said the magic words. He got the tech and said some more magic words, and got ejected.”

Parsons hit one of his two free throws, then freshmen guard Eli Newsome was brought in to shoot the technicals. He sank all four, making it 80-70.

Most players bumped fists or elbows during the traditional lineup for handshakes after the game.

“We’re just using common-sense stuff when it comes to the coronavirus,” Mr. Occhi said. “They were happy to play and happy to be going to Rhode Island College on Saturday.”

Newsome was the top scorer for Portsmouth, with 22 points, including four 3-pointers. 

Also having outstanding games were sophomore guard Ben Hurd (21 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists) and Parsons, with 19 points. 

Others contributing on offense were Tim Chlaupek (9 points), Bielawa (8) and Robbie Yates (1).

Girls win, too

The boys would have been joined in the Elite 8 this weekend by the 10th-seeded PHS girls’ varsity team, which beat the No. 7 seed, West Warwick, on the road on Thursday, March 12.

Gabby Schenck scored 18 points and 22 rebounds to lead the Patriots to victory.

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