Townies trounce Knights, advance in 2024 Division I boys' basketball tournament

East Providence cruises past Central 82-41

By Mike Rego
Posted 2/22/24

The East Providence High School boys' basketball team easily dispatched Central in the preliminary round of the 2024 Division I championship tournament, the Townies literally doubling up the visiting …

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Townies trounce Knights, advance in 2024 Division I boys' basketball tournament

East Providence cruises past Central 82-41


The East Providence High School boys' basketball team easily dispatched Central in the preliminary round of the 2024 Division I championship tournament, the Townies literally doubling up the visiting Knights 82-41 Thursday night, Feb. 22.

Fifth-seeded East Providence never trailed after Christian Torres drained a 3-pointer for the first bucket of the game. The 12th-seeded Knights scored the next hoop, but found themselves down 14-4 at the close of what was a sloppy, ragged opening eight minutes.

The Townies gradually added to their advantage in the second quarter, taking a 33-22 lead into the break. The hosts then took complete control of the contest in the third period, building a 59-33 at the end of the quarter.

"The second half, I was impressed. We played with a sense of urgency. I think the first half there were a lot playoff jitters. We have guys who've never played a playoff game before. And I don't care who you are or what game you're playing, there's jitters," said EPHS head coach Joe Andrade. Only one of the Townie regulars — center Kenaz Ochgwu — had any meaningful playoff experience before Thursday.

Levi Jacobs paced the locals with a game-best 24 points. Derrell Liggins came off the bench to offer his best effort of the season to date, making four 3s and finishing with 17 points.

Ochgwu brought the house down with four thunderous dunks en route to an 11-point night. Jaydason Barros and Franklin Carela Lopez chipped in seven each. Torres had five.

"We played great," Ochgwu said of the Townies' performance in general. "I feel like we were shooting more 3s than we should have at first, but after that, once we started to get into how we play, we were just fine."

"It definitely helps out our team," Ochgwu added of his dunks, all of which, like his points, came in the second half as the Townies built their commanding lead. "I try to get a rise out of the crowd to give us more energy on the court."

The Townies and Knights had split their two previous outings this winter. East Providence lost at home in the Mutter Holiday Classic to Central 66-49, but got the better of the Knights in their league outing in Providence 84-62.

The victory in the rubber match between the EP and Central propels the Townies into the main draw of the D-I tournament and a date against either fourth-seeded Hendricken in Warwick or at home against 13th-seeded Westerly next week. The Hawks and Bulldogs play their prelim Friday night, Feb. 23, also in Warwick.

More Central notes
Liggins, who in the first period banked in one of his two 3s off the glass on the night, had five points in opening period. He also made two free throws at the end of the quarter after Central was hit with its second technical foul. The first came when the Knights incorrectly filled out their lineup. The second was on a player.

Liggins' second banked triple came in the second quarter helped the locals build their lead into double digits. Jacobs scored the last seven points for the Townies heading into the half as EP took its 11-point edge to the intermission.

Ochgwu's personal dunk show occurred early in the third period as he and Jacobs began to dominate the painted area. Brandyn Van Wagner and Jacobs provided alley-oops for two of his slams while Liggins a feed assisted on the third jam of the quarter, which also drew a foul. When Ochgwu sank the free throw, EP was up 45-26.

Next time down the floor Liggins canned a corner trey to put the Townies on top by 20 for the first time, actually 22 at 48-26 midway through the stanza. A Carela Lopex triple with about a minute left lifted EP's edge to 59-30 before the Knights chipped away with three late points before the end of the quarter.

Ochgwu's only other field goal, a nifty 10-foot turnaround in the lane, gave EP a 66-36 lead early in the fourth. Then, his fourth and last dunk of the evening off an oop from Tyler Gomez, second the lead 32 seconds later. Two late Barros buckets, a drive and old-fashioned three-point play, eventually upped the Townies' lead to a night-best 82-39 in the final minute of the game.

"Some of the guys, first half they were rushing, rushing, rushing," said Andrade. "Second half, they fed Kenaz. They fed Levi. It's got to be inside out. And then Liggins, I thought he played a great game. He made some shots, especially if they're going to play zone. You gotta make something. And I thought our energy was great in the second half.

State tourney notes
The win over Central kept East Providence in the hunt for two titles, in D-I and in the revamped Open State Championship Tournament. Instead of 16 teams earning spots in states, the way it was from the event's inception in 2011, only 12 teams will qualify this winter.

The Townies entered the postseason sixth in the power rankings with 12 points, behind and in front of three Division II sides. Lincoln (17-1) had 13.6 points. St. Raphael and Tolman also have 12 each.

Like during the regular season, Division I teams earn one point for a win while D-II gets .8 per victory and D-III .6. North Providence, at 17-1 and with 10.16 points, was the lone D-III currently in the state tournament mix heading into the postseason, holding the 12th-and-last spot available.

"I'm not sure how it's going to go because (the format) is all new and I don't know what's going to happen in D-II, but we needed this one. If we didn't win tonight, I think our season was probably going to be over," Andrade said of the Townies' Open Tourney prospects.

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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