Men’s basketball inches closer to playoffs following its seventh win in nine games
Sophomore guard RJ Pina (Rumford, RI) finished with 35 points and fellow sophomore guard Jason Palmer (Westerly, RI) scored 22 as the red-hot Community College of Rhode Island men’s basketball team beat Springfield Tech, 95-82, Tuesday for its seventh win in its last nine games.
CCRI is now 13-12 heading into the stretch run after starting the season 4-9. The Knights have won three in a row and nine of 13 overall since the beginning of January – an impressive turnaround under first-year head coach Marcus Douthit – and have put themselves in position to return to the NJCAA Region XXI Tournament later this month, where they will have a chance to defend their 2021–22 title.
The top eight teams in the region qualify for the tournament and due to their recent hot streak in January and February, the Knights are now 10-10 in league play and sit at eighth in the conference – two and a half games ahead of ninth-place Bristol Community College with two games to go in the regular season. If the Knights finish strong against regional rivals Northern Essex and Bunker Hill they will qualify for the tournament and could potentially move up in the standings depending on how sixth- and seventh-place schools Bunker Hill (11-8) and Massasoit (11-10), respectively, finish down the stretch. (View the Region XXI standings)
Pina and Palmer have played a pivotal role in the Knights’ recent success. Pina leads the team in scoring with 20.7 points per game, which ranks him 10th in the nation among NJCAA Division III rivals, and is also 16th in the nation in three-point field-goal percentage (43.0). Palmer is second on the team in scoring at 18.9 points per game, good enough for 26th in the nation.
The dynamic backcourt duo combined for 57 points Tuesday with Palmer adding 10 rebounds. Pina’s line included four steals, five assists, and eight rebounds.
CCRI has also benefitted from the production of sophomore guard Neiko Ward (East Providence, RI) who finished with 16 points Tuesday, including 3-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, and is third on the team with 13.6 points per game.