Townies tip Tigers in boys' state hoops tourney

Hazard is clutch late as East Providence beats Tiverton

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NORTH KINGSTOWN — A clutch three-pointer and a game-sealing free throw from Dion Hazard gave the East Providence High School boys’ basketball team just enough to squeak by Tiverton, 55-51, Thursday evening, March 9, in the opening round of the 2017 Open State Tournament played at North Kingstown High School.

After a closely contested first couple of minutes, E.P. managed to pull away on the back of 12 first half points from Hazard that put Tiverton in a 26-18 hole heading into the locker room. Back on the floor, the Tigers came storming back from big deficits multiple times forcing Hazard to make a three with just 30 seconds left that proved to be the difference.

“They are a good team,” E.P. head coach Joe Andrade said. “They didn’t go undefeated for no reason. I don’t care what division. It is a real good win.”

To begin the game, Tiverton got on the board first thanks to their leading score Tyler Murray on a driving layup while E.P’s David Ogunronbi hit on a midrange jumper that tied the game at two. The Tigers proceeded to build their first lead of the game on a fast break bucket by Carson Hart and a layup by Michael Hrycin which put the Townies in an early 6-2 hole. E.P. responded quickly however with an 8-2 run that included a corner three by Kyerstan Casey and back-to-back hoops from Hazard.

The Townies continued their hot streak with a layup from Deyshawn Tengbeh and backto-back buckets from Clinton Ogunronbi that increased E.P’s lead to 16-12. Tiverton continued to fight as two made free throws from Murray and a Townie timeout later, the Tigers hole stood at just 16-14.

Back on the floor, E.P. scored eight unanswered points all coming from Hazard. Tiverton meanwhile continued to live at the line as two more made free throws and a made layup from Hart put the Tigers’ deficit at 26-18 at the half.

After the break in action, the Townies saw five quick points with two of them from Hazard at the line and a corner three by Casey that upped E.P’s lead to 31-20 which forced Tiverton to call a fast timeout. With just several minutes gone in the second half, the Tigers had to call yet another timeout after another three from Cassey and a bucket from Tengbeh gave the Townies a 33-20 lead.

Tiverton proceeded to come storming back as the Tigers went on a 10-3 run that included back-to-back threes from Hart and Murray. This was before Murray hit yet another shot that cut Tiverton’s deficit to 36-30 which forced E.P. to call a timeout. Meanwhile, the Townies got their leading scorer going, Tengbeh, as he scored elven of his 17 points consecutively that allowed E.P. to keep pace with Tiverton during this stretch and still maintain their lead at 42-34.

A monstrous dunk from E.P’s Clinton Ogunronbi had the Townies’ bench exploded which forced the Tigers to call a timeout as they very quickly found themselves in a 44-34 deficit again. Tiverton continued to show no quit however as they received back-to-back scores from Gacioch and Hrycin that cut the Tigers’ hole to 44-38.

A three from Casey and a driving shot from Ogunronbi helped regain E.P’s big lead at 49-40. However, as soon it looked like the Townies were going to pull away Tiverton, they went on a 9-0 run that included two buckets from Hart (who finished with 20 points) and a step back shot from Hrycin that got the Tigers’ loud fanbase back into which forced E.P. to call a timeout with the score tied at 49 a piece.

Tiverton then regained the lead as Murray hit on a shot before E.P. responded with Tengbeh hitting on a jumper that tied the score at 51.

After a Tiverton miss, a timeout preceded with just 30 second left on the clock. Back on the floor, the Townies hung onto the ball for quiet some time before Hazard drilled a three with a man in his face to give the Townies a 54-51 lead with just 12.6 second left.

“No, no, no,” Coach Andrade said when asked if Hazard was suppose to take a three after the timeout. “It was suppose to be hold it for ten seconds and I wanted Deyshawn (Tengbeh) to come off a screen.”

After the Tigers rushed the ball past the half court mark, Tiverton called another timeout with just 10.7 second. A missed shot on a jumper by the D-III champs forced them to foul with just 2.3 second left. This send Hazard to the line just needing one make to seal the deal for the Townies and that is exactly what he did as E.P. celebrated a 55-51 win.

“He (Hazard) is becoming a player quietly and one of our best.” Coach Andrade said. “He is only a sophomore too.”

Meanwhile, for Tiverton this puts an end to an unforeseen season that saw the Tigers finish with a 17-0 regular season record then win three more times in the playoffs to claim the Division III championship.

“I am proud of them and they have nothing to hang their heads on,” Tiverton head coach David Landoch said. “You have no idea (how special this team is). To come into this season with the expectations to go into, and win, in the playoffs and then go a whole season undefeated is amazing. This is the first time this team has lost since September 28th. Everyone on this team knew their role. I can’t say enough about them.”

E.P. now must quickly turn their attention to the Division I champs and the number one seed in the Open State Tournament, Hendricken, who they face Sunday, March 12, at Brown with tipoff set for noon. The Townies suffered a 67-37 loss at the hands of the Hawks during their only regular season meeting a month ago.

“The first time we played them we got beat by 30 at their place, but I think it was good that we saw their pressure and saw what they are going to do,” Coach Andrade said. “I think we can matchup well against them, but we have to play.”

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