Classical fends off East Providence's upset bid in boys' hoops state quarters

Unbeaten Division I champ Purple proves too much for Townies

By Mike Rego
Posted 3/11/24

PROVIDENCE — Too many, too much, too good. Unbeaten Division I champion Classical did and was all of those things Monday night, March 11, as the top-seeded Purple held off a hearty East …

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Classical fends off East Providence's upset bid in boys' hoops state quarters

Unbeaten Division I champ Purple proves too much for Townies


PROVIDENCE — Too many, too much, too good. Unbeaten Division I champion Classical did and was all of those things Monday night, March 11, as the top-seeded Purple held off a hearty East Providence High School squad 80-73 in the quarterfinals of the 2024 Boys' Open State Basketball Tournament at Rhode Island College's Murray Center.

The eighth-seeded Townies certainly didn't make it easy on their now 22-0 opponents, but similar to the teams' regular season meeting six weeks earlier the locals couldn't quite answer all of the questions the Purple posed either time.

East Providence played Classical tough for about two-and-a-half quarters in a 77-60 loss to the visiting Purple back on January 30.

"It is what it is. We fought hard. We played hard. We just didn't have enough," said EPHS head coach Joe Andrade. "And (Classical's) guards are very, very good. Every possession matters against a team like that. There's a reason why they haven't lost a game. They're a very good team."

For the Townies, their 2023-24 season comes to a close with a 16-10 overall record. East Providence went 12-6 during the Division I regular season then won and lost a game in the league playoffs. The locals did the same in the state tourney, beating Johnston last week before falling to Classical, which went 18-0 this winter before winning three times in the league playoffs en route to the D-I title.

Kenaz Ochgwu paced the Townies with 25 points in the senior center's final high school game. Classmate Derrell Liggins saved his best for last, scoring a season-high 19 points off the bench. Fellow senior Levi Jacobs, who along with Ochgwu spurred EP's success this winter, ended his injury-plagued career with nine points. The fourth Townie playing his last high school contest, Brandyn Van Wagner, did not score in limited minutes.

Junior Tyler Gomez was the other Townie to reach double figures with 10. Classmates Christian Torres and Franklin Corela Lopez added five apiece.

"I thought Kenaz played very well, but there were times when we didn't get him the ball enough in the post," said Andrade. "I thought Derrell played well. As the season went along he got more confident and played better. And I think Tyler had probably his best game of the year."

For a time, Classical's Azariah Harrison was unconscious. The senior led all scorers with 32 points, 21 in the first half alone. His performance Monday followed his 29-point effort against the Townies during the regular season. Devin Alejosone had 15. Jordon Duke, brother of pro and former Providence College star David, had 13, 10 in the second half. Abdul Evans chipped in 12 and Eliezer Delbrey eight.

"I think (Harrison) is a good player. The kid can really play. He went off against us in the regular season, but there were times when we dropped off him and you can't do that," Andrade added.

On just about any other night the way the Townies played would have been good enough to earn the win. This past Monday evening, however, the Purple were just a bit better than EP in every aspect.

The game remained close throughout the opening 16 minutes. Gomez scored the first hoop of the night, giving the locals the initial edge. Harrison answered with the first of his 21 in the first half. Ochgwu later scored six in a row for the Townies, starting the locals on a 9-4 run as they built a 16-11 lead. It would prove the last time EP was out in front.

Classical countered immediately with a 6-0 run to regain a 17-16 edge. Harrison was fouled taking a deep wing 3 pointer, making all three at the line to put his side ahead for keeps. After Gomez drained a deep 3 from the wing for the locals, the Purple closed the first quarter on a 5-0 spree to take a 21-19 lead.

Ochgwu put back his own miss for the opening bucket of the second to once again tie the game, but Classical scored the next eight, six of which came off East Providence turnovers. The Purple would lead by as many as seven a couple of times before the Townies answered with a 7-2 run at the end of the period to trail just 39-37 at the half.

Classical once again spurted out to a lead early in the third quarter only to have East Providence answer to keep things tight. The Townies closed to within one (51-50) on an Ochgwu turn-around jumper in the lane.

Classical, though, scored eight of the next 10 to regain a seven-point spread (59-52), but the Townies scored the last four to trail 59-56 heading into the final period. Jacobs drained an elbow jumper and Liggins hit two free throws after being fouled on a drive.

Duke and Delbrey came to the fore for the Purple in the fourth, both scoring six points to help Classical extend its lead to as many as eight mid-way through the period.

Liggins next scored five in a row, including a bomb triple from the sideline hashmark, to slice EP's deficit to 68-65, but it proved the Townies' last gasp.

The Purple responded with the next six to go back out in front by nine. After Ochgwu made one of two at the free throw line, Harrison hit his last shot of the night, a 3 from the corner to give Classical its largest lead of the game, 77-66, with about 90 seconds left. The trey was Harrison's sixth of the evening. The Purple made just one other from distance, an Alejosone 3 last in the first quarter.

"In the grander scheme of things, they just had more than us, but we also didn't get into things offensively that we put in the last few days in practice" Andrade added. "And I thought we mixed up our defenses well, went from man to a 3-2 (zone), but one mistake where we don't move, they capitalized. Like I said, every possession matters against a team like that. They're just too good."

Classical advances to the state semifinals Saturday, March 16, at 4 p.m. at the University of Rhode Island's Ryan Center where the Purple face another unbeaten league champ Lincoln. The D-II titleist and fifth-seeded Lions, also 22-0, defeated fourth-seeded Hendricken 74-53 in Monday's other semi at RIC.

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email