Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 03-14-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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Page 15 of 39

North Smithfield, Blackstone and Woonsocket Edition MARCH 14-20, 2019 Sports & Recreation @ WARWICK – Not a lot of people would have predicted at the begin- ning of the boys' basketball season that Woonsocket would be playing in the Open Tournament's Final Four in the middle of March. Heck, even their head coach, T.J. Ciolfi, was hoping three months ago that if his Villa Novans could put together a strong season in the state's top division and a decent run in the Division I playoffs, they could receive one of the 16 spots in the marquee tournament, which would be a feat that the program had never accom- plished before. But the Novans did their head coach proud by not only posting their best regular-season record in a decade, but also reaching the Division I semifinals and landing the fifth seed in the Open Tournament. And they didn't stop there. After grabbing a 42-29 victory over 12th- seeded La Salle in their tourney opener last Thursday, the Novans punched their tickets to this week- end's Final Four at URI's Ryan Center on Sunday afternoon by post- ing a thrilling 82-71 victory over 13th- seeded Barrington in their Elite Eight matchup at CCRI-Warwick's Cullen Field House. Down by a 69-65 score with 3:53 to play, the Novans ran off 13 straight points to pull away from the Eagles and earn their first trip to the state semifinals since the 2009-10 season. "This actually means a lot," said Woonsocket senior guard Dwayne Robinson-O'Hagan, who scored a game-high 30 points. "A lot of people thought we wouldn't be able to do this, and now we're just proving everybody wrong. This feels amazing. I've never been in this predicament before." One person who has been in this predicament before is Ciolfi, who will become the first head coach in the nearly decade-long history of the Open Tournament to take two differ- ent schools to the Open Tournament – in the 2012-13 season, he took Division III North Smithfield to the Ryan Center. Ciolfi admitted during his post- game remarks to the media that, yes, you could have counted him among the folks during the pre- season who thought his squad could be good enough to get to the Open Tournament and maybe spend two games there. But now that his team, which will take a 21-6 overall record to Kingston, is a couple of wins away from its program's first state title, his mindset has changed. "This is the first time that Woonsocket has made the (open) tournament, so that was the goal," he said. "To go to the Ryan Center? I hate to say we're playing with house money, but my goodness, I wouldn't have set that as a goal at the begin- ning of the season. But now that were there – we're in Division I, we've seen everybody that we could potentially play – why not go win two more? That's not impossible." The Novans will play an all-too- familiar opponent in their Final Four opener on Saturday at 4 p.m., neighboring rival Cumberland, which defeated Toll Gate in its Elite Eight contest, 65-51. This will be the fourth time both teams will oppose each other, but the first since early January. They split their regular-season series – Cumberland posting an 80-71 victory on Dec. 4 and Woonsocket returning the favor, 64-59, on Jan. 9 – and the Novans topped the Clippers in the Roadshow Holiday Classic on Dec. 28, 72-50. "It's (going to be) boring," Ciolfi jokingly said. "Tell (Cumberland head coach) Gary (Reedy) I said I'd rather play somebody else. But this will be cool for our part of the state. They should move that game to Bryant and pack Bryant. It's an awesome rivalry, PHOTOS BY CHUCK NADEAU / WWW.CHUCKN.COM Left, all eyes are on Woonsocket's DENZEL LYLES, #1, as he puts in a layup during the opening half of Sunday's Elite Eight matchup at CCRI-Warwick. Lyles scored 17 points to help the Novans defeat Barrington, 82-71, and advance to this weekend's Final Four at URI's Ryan Center. Above, Barrington's WILLIAM RYVOLT, right, can't keep up with Woonsocket's DWAYNE ROBINSON-O'HAGAN as he drives to the basket during Sunday's Elite Eight matchup at CCRI-Warwick. Ryvolt scored 24 points to lead Barrington, but Robinson-O'Hagan netted a game-high 30 points. Woonsocket storms into Final Four Elite Eight victory over Eagles sets up Novans-Clippers duel in state semifinals By ERIC BENEVIDES Valley Breeze Sports Editor See FINAL FOUR, Page 18 Consumers Propane 762-5461 BOUSQUET OIL 769-0146 139 HAMLET AVE. 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