O’Donnell scores 21 points in home loss
NORTH SMITHFIELD — For a few fleeting seconds it looked like the winless North Smithfield basketball team was going to go into the last minute of Wednesday night’s Division II game with Mt. Hope with a chance to win the game.
Junior Chris Matulaitis broke out of a pack of players with the ball and was coasting in for an easy basket to cut the Northmen’s deficit to just two points with 58 seconds left in the game. And then senior Brandon Joseph raced back and swatted the shot.
Joseph delivered another block on freshman Ethan Savoie moments later and the Huskies escaped North Smithfield with a 62-50 victory.
“Overall, I have to give their team credit because it was a great effort by (Joseph) to make those blocks because that was a game-changer,” North Smithfield second-year coach Brandon DiPaola said. “We’re on a fastbreak and we always teach our kids to run back. That was a heck of a block, give that kid credit.”
The Northmen, who only have 11 players on the varsity and junior-varsity rosters because four players are out with concussions and one varsity player is ineligible for the rest of the season. Still, the Northmen led by one point at halftime and received a game-high 21 points from senior captain Drew O’Donnell.
Savoie added 10 points and Dave Almeida had seven, including five in the opening few minutes to get the Northmen going.
“Drew hustles and you can’t take anything away from him,” DiPaola said. “He’s the type of kids that we play the entire game. He communicates on defense and he’s our senior captain. He’s diving on the floor and he’s literally the coach on the floor.”
North Smithfield (0-13 Division II) will be on the road for three of its final four games of the season, including Friday’s contest at red-hot Lincoln. The Northmen’s best chance at a win will likely in their season final on Feb. 16 when they visit winless Central Falls. The Warriors defeated the Northmen in a non-league game in Coventry in December.
“We need to keep doing what we’re doing,” DiPaola said. “We’re making progress. It just comes down to turnovers because we are a young team and we’re still making the same mistakes, but we’re getting a lot from guys who didn’t play much earlier in the year including Dave Almeida, who had 14 the last game.”
Mt. Hope (3-10 Division II) trailed by one at halftime, but went on a 13-3 run to start the second half and never looked back. Deven Lavallee led the Huskies with 22, while Connor Padovich scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.