The No. 7 CCRI Knights outlasted the No. 4 Bristol Bayhawks 89-85 on Wednesday night during a dogfight at the Knight Campus field house and continued their 14-game winning streak while staying unbeaten at home.
The victory was retribution for CCRI’s last loss, which came at the hands of the Bayhawks, who beat the Knights 15 games ago in Bristol.
“They beat us 99-95,” CCRI head coach Rick Harris said. “So, I was trying to get that score to be lower. I didn’t want it to be in the 90’s. I was hoping it was in the 70’s or 80’s. So, we had to do a better job controlling the tempo of the game. And, we definitely did in the second half. We slowed them down.”
Franklin Udeh, a freshman, led the Knights with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Udeh is top 20 in the country in rebounding.
Sophomore point guard J.C. Santos was second in scoring for the Knights with 19 points, four assists and four steals. Santos is top ten in the country in assists.
“It feels great,” Santos said of the win. “We played as a team. Coach ran the plays and we did the X’s and O’s, and we just played harder. That’s all it was. It was a family win.”
“Toughest team, we’ve played so far,” Santos added. “I’m sure we’ll see them in the playoffs again. I think we’re ready for it, honestly. It’s going to be a dogfight again.”
Rounding out the double-digit scoring for CCRI was Peter Wilson, who finished with 14 points, seven steals, and six assists, while Jose Garcia tallied 13.
Bristol has been getting respect all season, and for good reason.
“We’ve been watching them all year,” Harris explained. “They were ranked all year and we finally broke the rankings two weeks ago.”
“So, hopefully we can win tomorrow night and get a good ranking for next week, which is great for the school, great for the kids,” Harris continued. “But, as we all know, most importantly, we just want to be playing our best basketball when the tournament starts at the end in March.”
Bristol sophomore Zecaree Veiga led all scorers in the game with 24 points, while his teammates, Dontell Rodriguez, a sophomore guard, chipped in 18, Josh Winbush, 12 and Marcus McCarthy, 11.
“They’re so fast,” Harris said of the Bayhawks. “They’re so hard to stop in transition. The only way you can stop them is if you run a good offense and don’t take that quick shot. So, we were half and half with that. But, I’ve got good veteran guards that know how to control a game at the end. So, I’m really proud of Peter Wilson, JC Santos, and David Cabeceiras among others.”
CCRI won the opening tip and started the game on an 8-2 run, which forced Bristol to request a full timeout with 16:22 left. That Knights spurt saw Udeh sink two shots, Santos a steal and a breakaway layup, and Oscar Iteji, a driving bucket.
Out of the timeout, Bristol’s McCarthy tossed to Veiga for an alley-oop layup, which sparked a 6-0 spurt and tied the game at 8.
CCRI went back up by three though when Santos assisted inside to Udeh, who made a turnaround jump shot plus a free throw on the Knights next trip down.
The Knights extended their advantage to 15-10 with 13 minutes remaining when Santos made a driving shot off the glass, and then, a fast break layup on the Knights next possession.
CCRI increased its upper hand to 19-12, two minutes later, when Santos dropped down a driving basket.
Bristol’s Rodriguez drained a corner trey after that and got the Bayhawks within two.
But then, the Knights got a 3-pointer from Santos, a pair of free throws from Wilson, and a 3-pointer from Garcia and took 27-20 lead.
Once again, though, Bristol rallied back, going on a 7-0 run and knotted the game at 27 with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
With 4:32 left, Bristol seized its first lead when Malik Charles made a layup and put the Bayhawks up 34-32.
Twenty-nine seconds later, CCRI grabbed the lead back when Johnston High School alum Dylan Durante drilled a shot from downtown and gave the Knights a 35-34 edge.
Fifteen seconds later, Bristol snatched the lead back when Rodriguez netted a 3-pointer with 3:48 left and put the Bayhawks on top 37-35.
CCRI’s Santos and Bristol’s Rodriguez each made a trey before Udeh dropped in a runner and deadlocked the game at 40 with 2:30 left in the first frame.
After that, Bristol’s Stanley Freeman made back-to-back layups and gave Bristol a 46-42 lead.
The Bayhawks brought a 48-45 margin into the break.
CCRI knotted the game at 49, two minutes into the second frame, following a pair of free throws from Wilson, and a putback from Oscar Iteji.
But, Bristol got three straight buckets after that, and went up six.
With 15 minutes left, Udeh scored with a putback and started a 5-0 run, which got the Knights within 55-54, following a 3-pointer from Pilgrim alum David Cabeceiras.
Then, with 10:51 left, CCRI took a 62-61 lead when Wilson found Jacob Gillis for a layup.
But, Bristol went back up by one when Morris made a bucket.
The seesaw battle continued with the clubs tying at 63, and again, at 69.
With seven minutes left to play, Bristol made three steals during a 7-0 stretch and took a 76-69 advantage.
But, CCRI fought back.
Wilson found Udeh for a layup and that sparked a 9-2 eruption, which saw Santos make an old-fashioned three-point play after a no-look pass from Udeh underneath. Finally, a Wilson steal, which resulted in an Udeh layup, tied the game at 78 with 4:13 left.
Bristol answered that with a 5-0 run.
Then, Santos buried a 3-pointer, and Durante buried another, which gave the Knights an 86-85 lead with 1:33 left to play.
The freshman, Durante, has fit well into the Knights system.
“He can shoot the ball,” Harris said. “It’s nice to have that kind of a weapon in your arsenal. He is a very valuable weapon with his ability to make that 3-point shot from anywhere. He’s been a great addition to our team. He’s helped us win more than one game this year. Two games, he had five 3-pointers in the first half.”
Wilson earned a big steal during Bristol’s ensuing possession and killed some time off of the clock before the Bayhawks got the ball back and Rodriguez missed a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
With 17.1 seconds left, Bristol intentionally fouled Wilson, and the sophomore guard out of Providence, made both free throws and extended CCRI’s lead to 88-85.
Bristol had one more chance, but McCarthy’s 3-point attempt missed the mark and it was quickly corralled by CCRI’s Iteji.
Iteji was intentionally fouled with 1.1 seconds on the clock and the Schenectady, New York native, made one of two from the stripe and gave the Knights the four-point win.
CCRI went to Boston on Thursday night and walloped Benjamin Franklin IT 113-60 and increased its winning streak to 15 games. CCRI plays next on Tuesday at home against Roxbury at 6 p.m.