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Region XXI playoff races taking shape as basketball heads into winter break

Region XXI playoff races taking shape as basketball heads into winter break

The Community College of Rhode Island women’s basketball team continued its regional dominance this week as winter sports prepares for a brief hiatus during the holiday season.

The Knights rolled past rival Holyoke Community College, 82-17, Thursday at the Warwick Campus Field House, kickstarting a doubleheader that also featured CCRI’s men’s basketball team beating Holyoke, 91-57, in the nightcap.

For the women’s team, which entered the week ranked No. 7 in the most recent NJCAA Division III poll, Thursday’s win was its 27th in a row against its Region XXI rivals, a streak dating back to the 2021–22 season. CCRI is now 6-2 overall and 5-0 in regional play.

The Knights are not only undefeated in the region, but they’ve also dominated every game from the opening tip; in its five regional victories this season, CCRI has outscored its opponents by an average of 49.0 points per game, which includes Thursday’s 65-point win and a 90-11 win in November against Springfield Tech.

Freshman Brianlys Simono (Warwick, RI) led the Knights in Thursday’s win with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting and sophomore co-captain Alyissia O’Hagan (Woonsocket, RI) finished with 14 points and five rebounds. Sophomores Nysia Ortiz (Providence, RI) and Kelsey Hatch (Providence, RI) each finished with 12 points.

The men’s team improved to 4-8 overall and 4-4 in Region XXI with Thursday’s win. Both teams close out the first half of the 2023–24 season Saturday on the road against Massasoit Community College beginning with the women’s game at 1 pm. Regular-season action resumes January 6 for the women and January 8 for the men.

The second half of the season will be pivotal for both teams in terms of playoff positioning in the Region XXI Tournament. The women’s championship figures to be a three-team between CCRI, the two-time defending champions; Northern Essex, which is 5-1 in regional play in its first season in 13 years; and Massasoit, last year’s tournament runner-up which is currently 3-2 in Region XXI and one of only three teams with a winning record in regional play.

After a recent rough stretch prior to Thursday’s win, the men’s team is hoping for a strong second half similar to its late-season run in 2022–23. Last year, the Knights were 3-8 in regional play at the end of the first half, but won eight of their final 12 against regional competition to qualify for the tournament as the No. 8 seed. At 4-4 in regional play thus far, the Knights are in a better position entering the second half regardless of Saturday’s outcome; they are currently seventh in the Region XXI standings, but only within a game of Massasoit (5-4), Bristol (5-4), and MassBay (5-5). Twelve of the Knights’ final 14 games in January and February are against regional competition, marking a critical stretch for a team hoping to move its way up the standings under second-year coach Marcus Douthit.

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