Basketball kicks season of with a win


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Veteran boys’ hoop team hopes solid defense fuels successful D-III season

GLOCESTER – Returning a team that includes eight of its top nine players from a year ago, the Ponaganset High boys’ basketball team should be one of the teams to keep an eye on in Division III this winter.

Last Friday night, the Chieftains gave what could be a preview of things to come this year when they hosted a Division II team, Chariho, in their season opener and came away with a 76-70 win.

The Chieftains, who went 10-7 for the second straight time last season in the Division III-North standings, still have a bad taste in their mouth from their 70-59 loss to Central Falls in the D-III quarterfinals. Head coach Roger Forand said that they fought their way back from trailing by 30 points to chasing a nine-point deficit.

With returnees such as senior Steve DelSesto, a First-Team All-Division player who tossed in 23 points in last Friday night’s victory, the Chieftains should again put up a lot of points this year, including a bunch from the perimeter. But that leads to their goal this year of stepping up their defense.

“Our mantra is ‘four more stops’,” Forand added. “We want to make four more stops in a game than we did last year. And however we do that, whether it’s (playing) straight-up defense, giving up four less rebounds, or making an extra steal, we want to make four more stops because that’s eight points we don’t give up. Take (away) those eight points last season and there’s four or five other games we would have won.”

Forand did not name any captains this season, but said that he wants the leadership to come from his seniors, which not only includes DelSesto, but also Kyle Cullen, who was a Second-Team All-Division selection last season, Griffin Ferretti, who scored 14 points in last week’s win, and Mike Resnick, whose late three-pointer keyed the win over Chariho.

“This will be their third year of getting real varsity time,” reported Forand. “As sophomores, they probably played half of the game or more. That puts us at a different spot, compared to where we were a year ago. Instead of having to teach the basics of what we’re trying to do, we can come in with the basics and get ready to go forward from there.”

Forand said that on any given night, any starter could be the sparkplug. Junior Cal Parrillo was also in the starting lineup last week, sophomore Sean Cullen scored 17 points to help key the win, and junior Ryan Smith and sophomore Lucas Pierce also provided some key minutes off the bench.

Last Friday’s game was an entertaining one that saw the Chieftains fall behind the Chargers early before taking a 31-29 lead and going into halftime with a 40-31 advantage. Chariho regained the lead with six minutes to go in the second half, but Resnick’s late three-pointer eventually put the Chieftains back on top for good.

The Chieftains, who will open their D-III season on Friday at 7 p.m. at Johnston, headed down to Westerly earlier in the week for another D-II game against the Bulldogs. Forand said he scheduled this game on purpose because it would help prepare his team for their rigorous D-III schedule.

Speaking of the division, two returning teams that Forand highlighted were North Smithfield and Central Falls, while two newcomers who are dropping from D-II are Toll Gate and Rogers.

“I honestly believe that on any night, almost anybody can win,” Forand added. “We will have to battle every single night. We can never come into a game and think it’s going to be easy. If we do, we’ll be walking out (of the gym) not a happy team.”

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Basketball kicks season of with a win