Ordinarily, when a school holds a pep rally, regardless of sport, it’s before a playoff game.
That wasn’t the case on Tuesday night when La Salle Academy held a pep rally prior to its Division I crossover game with defending boys’ state basketball champion Classical High.
“(La Salle) kind of used (the game) as a measuring stick,” said Classical coach John Cavanagh after the Rams beat the Purple, 59-39. How well do we play against Classical? I do feel teams get up to play us.
“We took a bad loss to Woonsocket (73-64) which has struggled in recent years so that was a big win for them.”
As a result of that loss, Classical fell into a first-place tie in I-Central with Cranston East (each team is 6-3 while the Purple are 9-5 overall).
What made the Purple’s loss to La Salle (9-0 in I-North) noteworthy was that the Rams held Classical’s star guard, Kealen Ives, to a season-low 13 points.
“Everyone in the state knows who Kealen is,” said Cavanaugh. “They know he’s the best player in the state and is the target of players and fans. We’ve seen a lot of teams try to play more junk defenses, like a box-and-one or blitz him over half-court or hard-trap him.
“We’ve told the rest of the kids this is your opportunity. If we make this all about Kealen, we don’t have a chance. We need other guys to step up and be aggressive.”
That may be easier said than done considering the inexperience of this season’s team (Classical only has four seniors).
“I played four seniors and four juniors last season (en route to the state title),” said Kavanagh. “This year a sophomore and an inexperienced junior are in my starting lineup and three subs off the bench are an inexperienced senior, a sophomore and a freshman.
“I told Kealen (Tuesday night) that’s he’s burdened with having to play with a young team. We look for him so much that we neglect other opportunities for our other guys.”
The reason why the 5-foot-10 Ives is the primary object of attention for Classical opponents is obvious.
After Classical annexed the 2013 state title, the 5-foot-10 Ives was voted First Team All-Division and First Team All-State honors as well as being named Rhode Island’s Player of the Year by MaxPreps.com.
Ives led Classical in scoring (21.8 ppg.) and assists (5.4 pg.).
Through the Purple’s first 14 games this season, those numbers have ballooned to the point where he’s averaging 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists.
In addition, he’s been nominated to play in the 2014 McDonald’s Senior All-American High School Basketball games.
“He’s a total player,” said Kavanagh. “He’s a much better rebounder this year. He may go down as the leading scorer in school history. When all is said and done, Kealen probably will score over 1,600 points in his career.
“He isn’t necessarily a shooter but he is a shot-maker. He needs to work on going to his off-hand and he has a tendency to finish with a (Rajon) Rondo move where he throws the ball up (off the glass).”
Despite all the stats Ives has accumulated in his career, his subjective qualities are what please his coach the most.
“He works confidently at his game,” said Kavanagh. “His leadership has grown. I’ve never been around a high school kid that’s had the qualities he has.
“He’s vocal. He’s passionate. He speaks his mind. And he expects when he’s not doing well for other kids to call him out.”
Bad breaks: If Barrington and The Prout School are going to win their respective division titles, each team will have to rely on its depth or, as the cliché’ goes, for another player to step up his game.
The Eagles, who currently lead II-East (7-1; 10-3 overall) lost the state’s leading scorer (23.0 ppg.), Corey Daugherty with a hand and wrist injury during a 76-64 loss to West Warwick on Jan. 17.
The initial diagnosis was that he strained ligaments in his wrist and suffered a bone bruise on his hand. That being said, he’s still listed as being out indefinitely.
The Crusaders also lost their top scorer, freshman Tomas Murphy, with a hairline fracture of a forearm during a 54-49 victory over North Providence on January 14.
Depending on how soon that fracture heels, Murphy could return to action by mid-February.
Who’s going where: A host of Rhode Island schoolboy and schoolgirls athletes recently signed letters of intent to play their respect sport commencing next season:
* North Kingstown’s Dominic Grillo will be playing baseball for the University of Rhode Island. Grillo last spring earned the Division I-South Cy Young Award. During the first three years of his career on the mound, the left-hander has racked up a 30-3 record replete with a 0.69 ERA.
* Three Barrington High Lady Eagles, who led their team to the Division I state lacrosse championship last spring, will move onward after graduating. All-State goalie Kate Clancy will enroll at the University of New Hampshire; All-State midfielder Madeline Soutter will be attending Boston College; and All-State midfielder/defender Mary Kate Coogan will make the trek to Colgate University.
* La Salle’s Chris Dandeneau and Ryan Lynch will be playing baseball for the University of Connecticut.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.