COVENTRY — There was a palpable sense of relief emanating from the Coventry boys basketball team’s locker room after Friday night’s Division I crossover contest with Mt. Pleasant.
Friday’s game may have finished just the first third of the season, but for coach Tom Campbell and the Oakers, Friday’s game was nearly a must-win after dissipating losses to La Salle and Smithfield where the Oakers had a lead in the second half and blew it.
Coventry blew another big lead Friday as the Kilties took a surprise three-point lead to start the second half, but the Oakers weren’t able to let this one get away. Senior point guard Nate Stitchell scored 28 points and had 10 assists, while junior guard Garrett Douglass added 14 points and four 3-pointers in a 74-63 victory.
“I felt before this game started that this game would have a lot of impact on the way our season would go from here,” Campbell said. “Obviously I’m very happy it came out this way. I think tonight we controlled the boards. In the La Salle game we didn’t control them at all and this game we did.”
“Coach told us in the locker room that we really needed to get this game,” Stitchell said. “This game meant a lot to us because we can’t keep losing these close games. We have to start getting on a roll to change our season.”
Coventry (3-3 Division I-South) is well aware of what the goal is this season. While the Oakers certainly want to reach the Division I playoffs and compete for the D-I total, the ultimate goal is to be one of the top eight teams in the state’s toughest division to earn a shot at the open state championship.
Mt Pleasant (2-4 I-North) was in the same position as the Oakers. The Kilties are seeing their season slip away with home games against D-I finalist North Kingstown and St. Raphael coming up next week.
Despite being outplayed for long stretches of the first half Mt. Pleasant went into halftime tied at 35 because of a late steal and basket. Mt. Pleasant could have actually led at the half, but the road side was just 1-for-5 from the foul line. The Kilties were just 2-for-15 from the foul line.
Mt. Pleasant took a 40-37 lead on a 3-pointer by Jovel Beckford. Beckford hit four 3-pointers for 12 points, while Kip Stewart led the Kilties with 15 points.
Stitchell, as he did all evening long, dragged his team back into the game when he found an open Ryan Finnegan in the corner for a 3-pointer. Finnegan, at one point, scored five straight points to tie the score at 42. Finnegan and the Oakers were 15-for-18 from the foul line.
“Free throws were the ballgame,” Campbell said succinctly. “You win games by hitting your fee throws. The games we’ve lost, we’ve missed the differential in points we lost by. I was very happy we only missed three today.”