The Division III Panthers put up a fight with the DII Falcons before falling 47-42 during the first round of the Cranston Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament on Friday night at Cranston High School West.
Johnston’s Tom Zednik, a junior forward, scored a game-high 19 points while senior Jared Olson led the Falcons with 13 points. Both players earned the Most Valuable Player Award for their respective squads.
West senior forward Andrew Dionizio finished third overall in scoring with nine points.
It was a tough challenge for the Panthers, but they battled all night. Zednik and the rest of Johnston missed a few easy buckets that could have very well been the difference.
“I’m happy,” Panthers head coach Ed Bedrosian said. “We played hard. We missed probably six or seven bunnies in the paint, but we didn’t give up. We fell behind twice by 15 and we fought back and made it a game, and that’s our game. We played good defense. When you hold a team like this to 47 points, I’m happy. We’ve just got to do a little bit better job on the offensive end.”
The tournament featured four teams with Cranston East and East Greenwich rounding out the field.
West jumped out to an early 6-0 advantage after Olson nailed back-to-back three-pointers, the first from the left wing, and the second from the left corner, following a steal from junior guard Joe Ragosta. And that forced the Panthers to take an early timeout, just one minute into the contest.
Johnston got on the scoreboard and drew within four when Anthony Tavares, a point guard, assisted inside to Zednik for a layup.
“He’s supposed to be our floor general,” Bedrosian said. “Sometimes he drifts off a little bit and I get mad at him because I want him with the ball. He’s a senior. So, he’s our senior guard and the offense goes better when he’s got the ball. He penetrates better than the other guards and sometimes I don’t know if he gets tired, he drifts off a little bit, but he plays hard. They all played hard. I can’t ask for anything more. So, it’s a good tune up for us for the season.”
With 6:05 remaining in the opening half, West upped its advantage to six, at 17-11, after Lagosta buried a 3-ball.
A minute and a half later, Cam Alves jumpstarted a 9-0 Falcons run when he picked the pocket of Johnston’s Justin Powell and made a breakaway layup. Next, Dionizio intercepted a pass and made a fast break layup before Massimo Feroce added a hook shot, and then a three-point basket, which gave the Falcons their largest lead of the game at 26-11.
The Panthers answered that with a 7-0 run of their own. That spurt saw Jay Canton, a junior forward, dish to Powell, who finished with an alley-oop layup, and then Tavares added a bucket, and Derek Salvatore a three-pointer, and all that pulled Johnston within 26-18 as the teams headed for halftime.
In the second half, West got off to another fast start after Alves assisted inside to Ethan Ryan, a junior forward, for an easy layup. Next, Feroce stole the ball and passed ahead to Olson for a breakaway layup, which put the Falcons on top 30-18 and forced the Panthers to call a timeout.
Then, the Falcons matched their largest lead of the game at 15 when Olson buried a three-point shot with 13 minutes remaining.
But with 1:47 left, Johnston inched within 42-38 after Tavares sank a trey, and Zednik a put back and a layup.
Nonetheless, West’s Mike Paquette was fouled on the Falcons ensuing possession and the freshman guard buried both free throws, and then Alves added another one and pushed the Falcons margin up to seven.
With under a minute to play, Johnston’s Zednik scored the final bucket of the game and it pulled the Panthers within 47-42.
“Johnston’s a great team,” West head coach Mike Monahan said. “They’re going to be one of the top teams in Division III this year. They’ve got a veteran squad. They play with a lot of heart and a lot of intensity. In the second half, they had us on our heels. We got up in the first half, but in the second half, they really hit another gear, and then we were able to sustain it with our veteran leadership.”
With the victory, the Falcons improved to 3-0 overall on the season while the Panthers fell to 2-1.
The next night, West was pummeled by East Greenwich 71-41 during the championship game.