WOOD RIVER JUNCTION — Chariho High’s boys basketball squad was only in possession of its long-range shooting stroke for one half of Friday night’s Division II preliminary round game against Pilgrim.
They drained 7 of 12 3-pointers in the first half, before finishing on a 0-10 skid in the second.
Consistent defensive pressure throughout the game neutralized any effect that cold spell might have otherwise had, as the Chargers coasted to a tidy 66-45 victory.
Jaxson Morkis led four Chargers in double figures, scoring a team-high 13. Chariho (14-9) truly shared the ball in the win, with Liam Flynn and Jeremiah Graham both scoring 12, and Zoot Boschwitz adding 11.
“We hit a ton of 3s in the first half,” Chariho coach Corey Downey said. “That makes everything look a little bit better.
“[Pilgrim] tried to do a bunch of different stuff to us in the beginning, triangle-and-two, couple zones. We did a really good job responding to it. Liam came out and hit a couple big 3s. That took them out of the triangle-and-two.”
Flynn hit all three of his 3-point makes in the first quarter, part of an aerial barrage that also featured deep hits by Tyler LaBelle, Morkis and Chris Niziolek.
The ultra-efficient shooting knocked 13th-seeded Pilgrim (7-15) out of its gadget defenses, forcing them to match up in man looks.
Patriot coach Sean Henseler cut his teeth in the RI coaching scene as an assistant at Narragansett, where his defensive work helped the Mariners win multiple Division II championships. The fourth-seeded Chargers were able to counter the complicated schemes Henseler always brings to the table, and managed to turn the game into a physical grind in the second half.
Graham was the team’s second leading scorer during the regular season, averaging 14.8 points per contest. He had a relatively quiet first half on Friday, only scoring five points. Following the shift in style of play, Graham helped the Chargers stave off the Patriot second-half comeback attempt finishing with 12 points.
“They made a little run, and a lesser team probably makes that worse,” Downey said. “We did nice things to respond to that. Jeremiah’s and-1 was a big play.”
Graham scored five quick points, including the aforementioned old-fashioned 3-point play, after the lead had been whittled down to 12. The Patriots hit six of their first seven field goal attempts in the second half, but the experienced Charger squad remained cool and collected.
“Defensively, we were really good,” Downey said. “We were on the ball, off the ball, we made the passing lanes really difficult. We haven’t been taking charges [much this year] and we took four or five tonight.
“I give them a ton of credit, they’ve worked really hard to get where they are. We know we can control our defense. You can’t control missed shots in high school basketball. Defense will always carry us.”
What little success Pilgrim found on offense typically came on a second or third-chance opportunity. An 8-0 second-half run consisted exclusively of layups, a handful of which came off of misses.
“You need someone to step up and make a play,” Downey said. “I always focus on defensive rebounding. Those are two big factors. We can’t give up extra possessions. I think the first 10 points for Pilgrims were off offensive rebounds. For us to advance [further], we’ll need defensive rebounding and clutch plays.”
The Chargers will play the winner of the Johnston-Wheeler School game in the quarterfinals next week.