April 19, 2024

East Providence Bops Central by 41 Pts in Division I Opening Round Playoff Win

Kenaz Ochgwu four monster dunks brings down the large crowd

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East Providence High boys basketball won its initial Division I playoff game against Central High School Thursday night with a decisive 82-41 win at EPHS. The Townies, winners of their last 7 games including wins against North Kingstown, Narragansett and La Salle, will now face Friday’s winner of the Hendricken-Westerly match. EP never trailed against the Central Knights, jumping out to a 14-4 lead in the opening minutes and never looked back. The home team led at halftime 33-22 and broke the game wide open in the third quarter with a 59-33 lead going into the last quarter.

The game’s pace actually slowed a bit in the first quarter as Townie Head Coach Joe Smith said that many of his players were new to playoff pressure. “It can take awhile for younger players to shake off playoff nerves,” Andrade said after the game. “But our senior center Kenaz Ochgwu led the charge and everyone else responded well,” said Andrade. Indeed the Townies dominated the 2nd half behind a game high 26 point performance from Levi Jacobs and Derrell Liggins’ 17 points, including four 3-point baskets. Kenaz Ochgwu had 11 “loud” points while Franklin Lopez and Jaydason Barros each had seven points for EP. But the highlight of the night for the large Townie crowd was the four monster dunks by Ochgwu. The senior center greatly raised the fan applause decibel level after each of his “dunks” bringing the crowd to its feet and further sinking the hopes of the Central players who had no answer for the Townies attack all night.

EP - Central History:
This was the third game between East Providence and Central this season. Earlier the Knights caught the Townies in a 66-49 game at home in December but EP bounced back with an 84-62 win in their second contest. The Townies win on Thursday was one of many memorable games between Central and EP through the years. Attending the game was Townie basketball legend Albert “Dubby” Soares. Soares was joined by his 1969 teammate and Townie football and basketball star, Jimmy Rose, who is an official scorer for Townie games these days. The Townies and Knights played for the State Championship in 1969 in a sold-out Providence College Alumni Hall. That 1969 game was the state’s first ever televised high school athletic contest, shown live to Rhode Island viewers. Central players included RI icons Marvin Barnes and Rick Santos. "We were leading that game with about 5 or 6 minutes to play, but Central rallied to beat us 67-63 that night," recalled Dubby Soares as he cheered on the 2024 Townies. In that '69 game the Townies pure shooter Nelson Lopes, was top scorer with 23 points and Soares had 17 points and numerous rebounds and four major blocks under the basket. Barnes of Central had 22 points and Central’s team shooting average was 43.5% However, EP shot for 48.3% and led at halftime 35-26. Ralph Roberti grabbed 11 rebounds for EP who outrebounded Central 39-37 in the game. Each side only committed 8 fouls despite tremendous defensive pressure throughout the game. Dubby Soares was foul-free in a dominating performance for the Townies under the basket. Central pulled it out in the end and the game lived up to its hype and is still one of, if not the best, high school games ever played. From 1969 until 1976 when East Providence beat LaSalle for the title, Central won titles consecutively.

George Leonardo hero in 1976 for EP:
In 1973-74 Central once again beat EP for the State Title in a close game followed by RI basketball fans. In another memorable championship game, the Townies would defeat La Salle for the championship in 1976. "The game came down to the wire and was tied with almost no time left. LaSalle had the ball, going for the win but it was George Leonardo who stole the ball for EP and made the game winning shot for coach Everett Aldrich's' Townies," said former EP Athletic Director Edward Cronan. "One of the smallest guys on the floor (Leonardo), hit the winning shot, giving EP the State Championship.” Leonardo’s daughter, Angie, class of 2016, also played basketball for EPHS. She was the second girl to score 1,000 career points for the Townies.

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