Winter has arrived...has the East Providence boys' hoops team done so too?

Townies impress while winning three Division I games on the trot

By Mike Rego
Posted 1/9/24

Winter arrived in recent days in the form of the season's first snowstorm, dropping a measurable amount of the white stuff for the first time in some 11 months.

The East Providence High School …

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Winter has arrived...has the East Providence boys' hoops team done so too?

Townies impress while winning three Division I games on the trot


Winter arrived in recent days in the form of the season's first snowstorm, dropping a measurable amount of the white stuff for the first time in some 11 months.

The East Providence High School boys' basketball team, likewise, appears to have begun to put its mark on the 2023-24 season during the same stretch.

EP offered up its best stretch of games to date  upon its return from the holiday recess, the Townies winning all three of their Division I outings over the last week.

EP gave its most complete, efficient and effective performance as a group so far this season when the Townies dismantled host Central 82-64 in a game played in Providence on Thursday night, Jan. 4.

That point total was 19 more than the locals' previous best output of 63 they achieved in a non-league win over Johnston to open the season back at the beginning of December. It was also just the second time in eight games the Townies had scored over 50 points.

EP followed up with a 54-45 victory at home over Smithfield in a rare Saturday game played at Ramos Gym on January 6. The contest was rescheduled from some four weeks earlier when the Sentinels' trip to the city was postponed due to the start of the Washington Bridge calamity.

The Townies never trailed after taking the lead in the first quarter, but couldn't put away a pesky Smithfield side until late in the final period.

To begin this past week, East Providence again used a late surge in the fourth quarter to secure a 45-40 victory over visiting Mt. Pleasant Monday night, Jan. 8.

Defense spurred the game-winning sequence as the Townies twice thwarted the Kilties at the hoop in the last few minutes to earn their third league win in a row.

"We are sharing the ball more, taking better shots, feeding (senior center) Kenaz (Ochgwu)," EPHS head coach Joe Andrade said of the improvement in the Townies' play of late.

He continued, "We're still in a rush, but we've been better. It's a lot of teaching and explaining to them if we 1-for-19 for 3 or if we're driving one-on-three or over-dribbling, those things don't work. We need to try something different."

Central notes
East Providence never trailed after Alex Mulamba dropped in a layup for the first points of the game seconds into the first quarter. The Townies would eventually open the contest on an 8-0 run and lead 23-11 at the end of eight minutes. EP's advantage grew to a hefty 46-23 spread by intermission.

The Knights, who defeated the Townies just eight days prior in East Providence's annual holiday tourney, made a slight run out of the break, cutting their deficit to 63-49 by the close of the third quarter. But EP regained any momentum it may have lost to open the final frame, eventually easing its way to the 18-point win.

Andrade chalked up the performance to a tweak to the Townies' starting lineup, adding Mulamba and Brandyn Van Wagner to the opening five, along with the team being "focused on more things we need to do well."

Levi Jacobs led the locals with a season-best 17 points. Ochgwu had a double-double, adding 16 points and 10 rebounds. Franklin Corela Lopez had 14, Derrell Liggins 10 and Christian Torres eight.

Smithfield notes
Ochgwu delivered another highlight dunk as the Townies built a 17-12 lead over Smithfield at the end of the opening eight minutes last weekend. East Providence maintained its edge to intermission, leading 25-21 at the break.

Lopez got East Providence going out of the locker room, draining a 3 from the left wing to start the scoring. But the Sentinels stayed within striking distance, trailing 42-36 heading into the final frame. A Liggins triple a few minutes into the stanza gave the Townies a bit of breathing room heading down the stretch as they were able to do just enough to fend of their guests for the win.

Ochgwu once again paced East Providence with a game-high 16 points. Lopez added 13, Liggins seven. Torres and Mulamba chipped in five apiece.

Of Ochgwu's, Andrade said he's raised the level of his game, while noting his teammates have to do a better job of getting him the ball more often.

Mt. Pleasant notes
Two quick hoops by Tyler Gomez, a Lopez bucket and another from Ochgwu helped East Providence to an early 9-2 lead over Mt. Pleasant in their league meeting earlier this week.

However, the Kilties answered to take a 13-12 lead at the end of one on a buzzer-beating 3.

The Townies rebuilt a lead as large as five (22-17) when Torres drained a triple from the top, but Mt. Pleasant once more rallied to once again lead by the end of the second period 25-24.

EP would regain the advantage for what proved the rest of the way early in the third when Lopez converted an old-fashioned three-point play, making the bucket and the free throw to put the locals up 29-27 at the time.

He later drained a wing 3 to up the Townies' ad to 35-29. EP settled for a 37-32 by period's end when Brandyn Van Wagner dropped in a runner from the lane.

Offense continued to be at a premium in the fourth as both sides struggled to score. The Kilties rallied to within one (39-38) in just past the mid-point of the period before Jacobs hit a pull-up jumper to put EP back up three.

The key defensive stands for the locals came next. An Ochgwu block sparked a fast break, which Torres converted into a layup.

Lopez mimicked his mate on Mt. Pleasant's next possession. His block thwarted another Kiltie chance in the paint.

Ochgwu then emphatically capped the win at the end of the shot clock with a rousing two-hand slam to put the Townies up comfortably 45-37 with 56 seconds to play.

Asked what he appreciated about the performance of his group over the last week has been, Andrade said, "Learning and listening...They're understanding they don't need to do everything on their own."

Up next
The three wins propelled the Townies to 4-2 in league play, 6-4 overall.

East Providence takes to the road for two of its next three games, including a return trip to Smithfield for its regularly scheduled away date with the Sentinels and a venture to Cranston to take on East Tuesday night, Jan. 16.

In between, the Townies host Portsmouth Friday night, Jan. 12, at Ramos Gym. The latter two tips are 6:30 p.m.

"At Smithfield is tough. Portsmouth home will be tough too. They run their sets and have a few good players. And Cranston East on road is always tough. They're all winnable games, but also they each can beat us as well," Andrade said of the week ahead.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.