RIIL Boys Basketball Final 4 Preview
Hope Vs. North Kingstown
Classical Vs. North Smithfield
Following an exciting day of hoops at Providence College’s newly renovated Alumni Hall on March 3rd, the final weekend of RIIL Basketball is on the horizon, as we look forward to Hope doing battle with North Kingstown and Classical taking on undefeated North Smithfield. If the games from last week are any indication of what is to take place at the Ryan Center, we are in for a major thrill this weekend. Although Classical and North Kingstown dominated their opponents last Sunday, and throughout most of the regular season, they can expect to be confronted by much firmer competition on this Friday. Hope High, who got off to a slow start this season, has been on a tear as of late, and is a threat to unseat their higher rated opponents. North Smithfield is undefeated this season, but is seen as an unknown wildcard that could play spoiler to their higher-seeded division one adversaries.
The first game we will preview is Hope Vs. North Kingstown, which should be an interesting matchup due to NK’s size contrasted with Hope’s quickness. These two teams have the deepest, most – rosters left in the tournament, so it should be a very interesting game. It will be a dog fight from the opening tip, but I feel that Hope has the slight edge, due to their razor-sharp play during this postseason.
North Kingstown Offense: North Kingstown looks to spread teams out with their shooting, leaving opponents scrambling, which allows their big men space to operate. They like to push the pace when they get the opportunity, and their shooters will race to the 3 point line to get open looks. In the half court they like to run Flex and other continuity sets in order to get the defense moving, create layup opportunities, and get their scorers in space with the defense on the move. Guard Matt Quainoo looks to push the pace, attack the rim, while still managing to run the team. NK looks to Justin Pratt for perimeter shooting and scoring, while Owen Heath is able to provide points inside and out.
North Kingstown Defense: North Kingstown plays mostly straight man-to-man, but will use a zone occasionally. They play very good half court man-to-man defense, where they apply slight pressure to ball handlers, while funneling most of the action to their big men, who are able to challenge opponents without fouling because of their superior size.
North Kingstown Key Players:
Chris Hess F, SR 6-3
Matt Quainoo G, SR 5-11
Owen Heath F, SR 6-5
Justin Pratt G, SR 6-3
Austin Barry G, SR 6-2
Hope High Offense: When hope has the ball they look to push at all times in order to get their wing players in transition. They are dangerous on the break, but they are starting to round into form in their half court sets. They have good shooters in the starting lineup as well as off the bench, which has allowed their dominant slashes room to attack the rim. They run a variety of quick hitting and motion sets, which have allowed for very nice floor spacing. Manny Kargbro looks to attack the rim and post up, while Benjamin Vezele is considered a “stretch” 4 is able to space the floor with his shooting ability and inside touch. Wayne Clements is a steadying hand for the Hope attack as well as providing top-notch outside shooting. Johnson Weah supplies the inside toughness, coupled with a soft outside touch. Sophomore Elijah Lewis is a change of pace off the bench, who can get to the rim when need be.
Hope High Defense: Hope is a very good half court man-to-man team, and is able to force a great deal of turnovers and difficult shots because of their constant ball pressure. Their defense is the key to them scoring as they look to turn defense into offense throughout the course of the game. They occasionally will slip into a zone or look to press in order to jolt the tempo if their defense looks stagnant.
Hope High Key Players:
Emmanuel Kargbo G-F, SR 6-2
Johnson Weah F-C, SR 6-3
Wayne Clements G, SR 5-10
Benjamin Vezele F, JR 6-4
Elijah Lewis G, Soph 5-11
Classical Vs. North Smithfield
The Classical Purple, the tournaments #1 seed, square off against the #5 seeded North Smithfield Northmen in the second state semi. The Purple arrive at The Ryan Center after a 81-32 dismantling of Westerly in the quarters. Classical features the state’s most skilled and consistent backcourt. Seniors Terrill Toe and Ishmael Batista are a threat to score from anywhere on the court, while junior floor general Kealen Ives paces the Purple with his explosive play, and vocal leadership. The terrific guard play has opened up things down low for junior big men Oscar Morales and Tom McKiernan. The duo is playing their best basketball of the season, cleaning up on the boards, creating transition opportunities for the Purple.
North Smithfield enters this matchup as a big underdog, but not at any fault of their own. The Northmen posted a 23-1 record this season, including an impressive win against D-2 school Coventry, en route to capturing the Division 3 title last month. NS is led by senior guard, Cody L’Heureux who is one of the state’s best scorers. He has a smooth, relaxed feel to his game, and he fills up the score sheet effortlessly. Senior Matt Walkow, who anchors the middle for the Northmen, scored a game high 22 points in the quarterfinal win against Prout. These two young men lead a very experienced, and battle tested group of Northmen. This team has been consistent all season, rising to the occasion at the first sign of adversity.
While Classical will be the heavy favorite on Friday night, do not expect North Smithfield to back down. It will be interesting to see if North Smithfield can stop Classical’s transition and penetration. At the other end, Classical will need their forwards to step up in order to stop the much bigger front line of the Northmen. I expect Classical to lean on Senior Terrill Toe to slow down North Smithfield’s Cody L’Heureux, as Toe has the size and quickness to give him fits. If Classical can neutralize L’Heureux, I expect them to cruise to victory. Their three-headed attack of Toe, Batista, and Ives has been too much for nearly anyone to handle. Add that to the fact that a possible rematch with Hope, (the team that beat them for the D-1 crown), could come to fruition Sunday in the championship, has me thinking Classical gets this victory.