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Action heats up as men's and women's basketball enter key second-half swing

Action heats up as men's and women's basketball enter key second-half swing

As the annual winter chill takes over New England, basketball in the northeast is beginning to heat up as teams vying for postseason spots begin the all-important stretch of conference games that will ultimately make or break their playoff hopes.

At the Community College of Rhode Island, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are wrapping up their final run of non-conference games this week before facing the NJCAA Region XXI gauntlet from mid-January through February.

The men’s team scuffled out of the gate following its winter break with losses to conference rival Bunker Hill and non-conference foes Monroe College and Hostos before bouncing back Sunday with a win over Nassau. Despite the brief rough patch, the Knights are still 4-6 in league play and eighth place overall, which is a tough spot considering only eight teams make the playoffs, but they’re also within earshot of Bunker Hill and MassBay, who are 5-6 and tied for sixth in the league

Below are the Region XXI standings through Wednesday:

  1. Northern Essex (10-0)
  2. Quincy College (10-1)
  3. Quinsigamond (7-3)
  4. Bristol (7-4)
  5. Massasoit (7-4)
  6. Bunker Hill (5-6)
  7. MassBay (5-6)
  8. CCRI (4-6)
  9. Roxbury (4-7)
  10. UConn Avery Point (3-8)
  11. Holyoke (1-10)
  12. Springfield (1-10)

The key to success for the men is a critical two-and-a-half week stretch from January 30–February 17 in which the Knights play four of the seven teams ahead of them in the standings, including a January 30 showdown at home against Bunker Hill and two games against Quinsigamond in February.

History is on the Knights’ side; since 2018–19, they are 55-19 in the second half of the regular season, including the playoffs. That's a .743 win percentage over the span of four seasons, including a 16-1 record in the second half of the '18–19 season and a 10-7 stretch last year, which allowed them to clinch the No. 8 seed in the Region XXI Tournament.

After a pair of losses to non-league opponents earlier this month, CCRI’s women’s team dropped three spots in the Division III national rankings from seventh to 10th, but remains unbeaten in Region XXI play at 6-0. That keeps their streak of consecutive league wins at 28 dating back to the 2011–2012 season.

Since returning from winter break, CCRI lost a pair of road games at Southern Maine Community College, which competes in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) as part of the Yankee Small College Conference (YSCC), and NJCAA Region 3 opponent Herkimer.

With their perfect record in league play, the two-time defending Region XXI champion Knights remain the team to beat in the northeast, but Northern Essex is hot on their heels at 5-1 – the only loss coming, of course, against CCRI, which beat Northern Essex by 23 back in November. The two teams meet at Northern Essex next Tuesday in a game that could decide first place in Region XXI.

The rest of the league (through Wednesday) breaks down as follows:

  1. CCRI (6-0)
  2. Northern Essex (5-1)
  3. Massasoit (3-3)
  4. Springfield Tech (2-3)
  5. Quinsigamond (2-4)
  6. Holyoke (1-4)
  7. Bunker Hill (1-6)

Eight of the Knights’ final 11 are against regional competition, including critical February matchups against Quinsigamond and Massasoit. Picking up from where they left off a year ago, the Knights remain one of the top scoring teams in the nation, ranking seventh in D-III in both field-goal percentage (42.3) and three-pointers made per game (6.4) and ninth in three-point percentage (30.4).

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