Townies leave Purple feeling blue, advance in boys' hoops state tourney

East Providence upsets Classical in "Sweet" 16 contest

By Mike Rego
Posted 3/2/23

PROVIDENCE — Low key, though effective, for most of the night, Will Winfield made his presence known in a large way late for the East Providence High School boys’ basketball team as the …

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Townies leave Purple feeling blue, advance in boys' hoops state tourney

East Providence upsets Classical in "Sweet" 16 contest

Posted

PROVIDENCE — Low key, though effective, for most of the night, Will Winfield made his presence known in a large way late for the East Providence High School boys’ basketball team as the 11th-seeded Townies upset sixth-seeded Classical, 51-47, in the opening round of the 2023 Open State Championship Tournament Thursday night, March 2.

Winfield out-fought two Purple opponents to corral a free throw miss by teammate Xavier Hazard with just 18 seconds left in the game and the Townies clinging to a 48-47 lead.

The senior forward was fouled on the play and then stepped to the line himself where he calmly drained both for his only points of the game and more importantly to put EP up by three.

At the other end of the floor, Classical, as it did all second half, struggled to get up a quality shot against the Townies’ zone defense. Even after a timeout a member of the flustered Purple stepped on the sideline, turning the ball over to East Providence with 2.7 seconds to go. Max Collins was fouled, making one of two at the line for the locals to seal the victory.

“Will may have had a quiet night scoring-wise, but he must’ve had five or six blocks and 10 or 11 rebounds. He was just active all night. He worked his butt off,” said EPHS head coach Joe Andrade. “He does all of the little things, important things for us, including hitting those two huge free throws.”

Trey Rezendes, who scored 13 of his points in the second half, netted a game-best 18 to pace the Townies. Hazard chipped in 12. Alex Mulamba had eight off the bench, all coming the second quarter as he helped keep the locals within striking distance heading to the break. Collins had seven, five in the fourth. Kenaz Ochgwu and Jayveeon Gonsalves, like Winfield, had two apiece.

Azariah Harrison led the Purple with 17, scoring all nine of his side’s points in the first quarter. Evenson St. Franc added 10 and Eliezer Delbrey seven. Josaun Delawrence had five and Noah Walker.

The Townies advance to the Sunday, March 6, “Elite Eight,” quarterfinal round of the state tourney at Rhode Island College’s Walsh Gym where they’ll face 14th-seeded Smithfield game at 2 p.m. The Sentinels, like EP and Purple of Division I, upset third seeded and Division II champion Johnston at the buzzer Thursday. Classical saw its 2022-23 season come to a close with a 15-11 record.

The Purple began the "Sweet" 16 contest against EP rather well. Harrison drained a 3-pointer from the corner as he and the host Purple were off to a quick 9-0 start.

The Townies, meanwhile, didn’t score until the mid-point of the opening period on a Hazard layup. They wound up finishing on an 11-0 run to end the quarter to lead by two.

Harrison hit his third 3 of the half two minutes into the second quarter, which broke a 13-all tie and put Classical on top for the remainder of the opening 16 minutes. Delbrey later converted a layup and a free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Purple what proved the largest lead of the game for either side, 28-21, with 25 seconds to go before the break.

Collins dropped in a floater in the lane for the Townies’ last bucket of the period. Hazard stole a Classical pass as time expired, getting a long 3 off, but it rimmed out leaving the locals down 28-23 at intermission. In between, Mulamba importantly dropped in six of his points, which allowed the locals to stay within range.

“I thought the first half we lost some shooters on defense and they made shots. On the other end, we had good looks, but we didn’t make anything,” Andrade said. “Alex was huge for us. He’s just a sophomore. He made the most of the time he’s got this year. He worked his butt off all (last) summer and it’s paid off.”

The game began to ebb towards the locals in the third quarter as East Providence’s zone defense stiffened and the trio of Rezendes, Hazard and Collins got their offensive games going. The Townies outscored their hosts 14-9 in the period to bring things back level going into the fourth. Rezendes and Hazard each scored six in the quarter, the latter draining a 3 late to leave it at 37-all.

Classical was first to pull ahead in the final period, building a 44-39 lead three minutes in on a pair of Delbrey free throws. EP answered with the next six points, taking the lead for keeps on a Collins steal and layup, a drive for two by Rezendes and another take to the hoop by the junior. He was fouled, but missed, though the locals were now up 45-44 with just over two minutes remaining.

The Purple then had two empty trips before Rezendes was again fouled, this time making one of two to put EP up a pair, 46-44, as the clocked ticked down to a minute to go. Thirty-seconds later Collins was fouled, making both to give EP a four-point edge.

Delbrey next converted his second old-fashioned three-point play of the night to give Classical a chance with 23 seconds left. And the Purple then seemed to catch a break when Hazard missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Winfield rose to the occasion with the rebound and ensuing free throws.

“I told the guys at halftime we needed at least two of the three — Trey, X or Max — to start scoring in the second half for us to have a chance and all three certainly did. And I told Trey that was one of the better halves he’s played all year. He was very decisive with the ball,” Andrade added. “It was just a gritty, gutsy win. I’m proud of our guys for hanging in there and pulling it out in the end.”

— East Providence Post and eastbayri.com contributing photographer Tyler Maxwell shot the accompanying gallery of photos.

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Mike Rego

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 mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.