For the second consecutive game, the Pilgrim boys’ basketball team was happy with the way it played in the early going.
Now the Pats just need to learn to sustain it.
Facing Division II-North leading Central Falls on Tuesday night, Pilgrim jumped out to a 13-9 lead and stayed within striking distance for the rest of the first half. The second half, though, was a different story, as the Warriors caught fire and ran away with a 67-47 victory.
Despite the 20-point loss, the strides the Pats have taken since the beginning of the season were evident. It’s just a matter of continuing in that direction before the wins start coming.
Pilgrim fell to 0-8 in Division II. Central Falls improved to 5-3.
“That’s two games in a row (including last Friday’s 75-42 loss to Shea) that we’ve played a pretty good first half and we just haven’t responded as well in the second half,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Batalon said. “Hopefully we can correct that, and build on it.”
The early success started with breaking Central Falls’ full-court press, which it used for the majority of the game.
After the Warriors took a 2-0 lead, Pilgrim got four consecutive points from Ryan Morris in transition, and took an 8-5 lead on two more fast-break buckets – one by Cole Furney, and the other by Morris.
A Central Falls’ turnover led to another Morris layup on the run for a 10-5 lead, and, after a 4-0 run for the Warriors, Matt Christy hit a three-pointer to keep Pilgrim ahead 13-9.
“Our press break was our Achilles’ heel earlier in the season, but the last two games we’ve done a better job with it,” Batalon said. “We’re making progress.”
From there, Central Falls scored the next nine points to take a lead it would never give up, but the Pats didn’t fold.
At 18-13, Furney scored on a short jumper. Ryan Murray converted a three-point play for the Warriors on their next possession, but Brendan Rix banked home a shot for Pilgrim and Morris made one free throw to whittle Central Falls’ lead down to 21-18.
Elser Colindres executed a three-point play to give the Warriors control again, and a Pilgrim turnover led to a three-pointer from Julian Soares.
Christy hit two free throws to keep the Pats within striking distance at 27-20, but six quick points for Central Falls made it 33-20. Christy converted three more free throws before the half ended, and Furney made a turnaround jumper to cut the deficit to 33-25 at the break.
“I thought we came out and our defensive footwork was really slow,” Central Falls head coach Brian Crookes said. “We weren’t able to get into the traps with the pressure we were trying to put on them. And then we made too many turnovers on offense. And credit them – they forced the turnovers, and they hustled.”
Morris led the way with nine first half points, while Christy added eight.
Pounding the ball inside to Morris, however, was the clear recipe for success.
“He’s our best low-post scorer and we need him to score a lot for us to be successful,” Batalon said.
Unfortunately for the Pats, Morris only had four points in the second half and the team struggled, as a whole, on both ends of the floor.
Central Falls came out and scored 17 of the first 21 points, putting the game out of reach early at 50-29.
The Warriors used a balanced attack to get the job done. Clifton Johnston led all scorers with 15 points, and Murray added 12. Soares scored 11 points, and Steven Vasquez chipped in with nine.
“The second half I challenged my guys in the locker room to get a little quicker on their feet, stop reaching and get the ball out in transition,” Crookes said. “We were able to do that and it showed in the final score.”
Pilgrim was unable to keep up, as the closest it got over the final 11 minutes was 17, at 60-43 at the 4:06 mark on a layup by Charles Johnson.
“For the first half we did a decent job, in the second half we kind of ran out of gas,” Batalon said. “They shuffled guys in and out, and they’re pretty athletic.”
Morris was Pilgrim’s leading scorer with 13 points, and Christy finished with 11. Luis Pimental scored nine.
“I feel like we can compete with anyone,” Batalon said. “Right now we’re competing for seven, eight, 10 minutes, and we’ve got to stretch that out and make it 32.”
The Pats next game is scheduled for Friday at 5-3 Cumberland at 7 p.m.