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February frenzy could position Knights comfortably in Region XXI standings

February frenzy could position Knights comfortably in Region XXI standings

With the calendar flipping to February, the Community College of Rhode Island’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are trending in the right direction.

Coming off a doubleheader sweep Tuesday at home, the No. 10 nationally-ranked women’s team has now won 31 consecutive games against its NJCAA Division III Region XXI rivals over the last three years while the men have won three in a row to climb to seventh in the regional standings. Anything’s possible as the final month of the regular season for both teams begins tonight on the road with a doubleheader against regional rival Quinsigamond. The women tip off at 5:30.  

With each game, the women’s team continues to distance itself from the competition in Region XXI as it aims for a historic three-peat as conference champions and a third consecutive trip to the NJCAA National Tournament in March. Since their non-conference loss to Central Maine on January 20, the Knights have won four in a row, including dominant wins over regional rivals Northern Essex, Holyoke, and Bunker Hill. The next hurdle is third-place Massasoit, which entered Thursday trailing Northern Essex by half a game in the standings, but carries a four-game win streak against conference opponents entering tonight’s showdown with Springfield Tech.

The Knights and Warriors go head-to-head at the Warwick Campus Field House February 22 in a matchup with major playoff implications. At 9-0 in league play, CCRI boasts a two-game edge over Northern Essex with possession of the head-to-head tiebreaker and controls its own destiny in terms of earning the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Region XXI Tournament.

Sophomore guard Nysia Ortiz (Providence, RI) and freshman guard Angelisse Melendez (North Providence, RI) continue to dominate the backcourt for CCRI. Fresh off a season-high 31-point performance against Bunker Hill on Tuesday, Ortiz is averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game while Melendez is averaging 15.3 points per game. Freshman center Stephanie Walker (Providence, RI) has been phenomenal in the paint, averaging a double-double with 10.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Similar to the 2022–23 season, the Knights remain one of the nation’s top shooting teams, ranking 11th and 8th in field-goal and three-point field goal percentage, respectively.

As has been the case for the last four seasons, the men’s team is again heating up in the second half. After losing three in a row to begin the new year, the Knights have now won four of their last five, including consecutive wins against regional foes Holyoke, second-place Quincy College, and a critical win over Bunker Hill, which left both teams tied for seventh with eight league games left on the schedule.  

Since 2018–19, the Knights are 59-23 in the second half of the regular season, including the playoffs, which is a .743 win percentage. CCRI – now 7-7 in league play – finished 10-7 down the stretch last year to earn the No. 8 seed in the Region XXI playoffs and has a shot to climb the ladder with games against 8-8 Massasoit, 8-7 MassBay, and 9-5 Bristol coming up this month. The third- through eighth-place teams in the region are separated by only two and a half games in the standings, so preferential seeding is still up for grabs over the final four weeks.

This year’s team has been led by the youth movement of freshmen big men Henry Robinson (Pawtucket, RI) and Kobe Fife (Providence, RI), who are averaging 13.2 and 10.8 points per game, respectively. Robinson is also averaging an efficient 6.2 rebounds per game as the Knights’ starting center. The team’s top five scorers are freshmen, including the backcourt duo of Nino Etienne-Boykin (Pawtucket, RI) and Ilyas Torres (East Providence, RI).

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