The Hendricken basketball team is hoping its offense continues to improve as the season goes along. Defensively, the Hawks are already locked in.
Hendricken posted a 47-35 victory over Hope on Thursday night, its eighth Division I victory in a row. The Hawks are now 9-4 and have the fourth-best record in D-I.
Hendricken hasn’t lost a game in Rhode Island since falling to La Salle on Jan. 3.
“Defensively, we played outstanding,” Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes said. “We seem to be getting better and better defensively.”
While switching seamlessly back-and-forth from man to zone defense, the Hawks held Hope to just 14 points in the first half and led by double-digits for the majority of the second. They led by as many as 17 after the break.
“We did a good job of getting back on defense, playing five-on-five, contesting shots,” Gomes said. “I was happy with the way we played in the first half and I was happy with the bulk of the way we played in the second half.”
Corey Palumbo led Hendricken with 14 points – all in the second half – while Nick Bourdeau added 11 and Lee Messier scored 10.
Emmanuel Kargbo was Hope’s high scorer with just eight points. Wayne Andrews-Clements had seven.
As a whole, it wasn’t a perfect performance from the Hawks, but once again, it ended with a victory.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Gomes said. “How far have they come? As long as we get a little better every game, hopefully we’ll have what it takes come playoff time.”
Hendricken scored the first four points of the game on layups from Bourdeau, and their lead ballooned to 16-6 over the next 10 minutes.
Hope stayed tough, getting a three from Andrew-Clements to make it 16-9, then one from Malieke Young not long afterwards to make it 18-14.
Bourdeau converted on a putback in the final seconds of the first half, and Hendricken went into the locker room up 20-14.
Coming out of the locker room, the Hawks slowed down the pace – and it worked.
Palumbo hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions, drove for a layup on the next one and then Gerry Manning hit a turn around to cap a quick 10-0 burst.
“I thought for the most part, we were in control,” Gomes said. “This game tonight, I was telling them prior to the start, it’s all about tempo control. You don’t want to get in a track meet with these guys.”
From there on out, Hendricken stayed steadily in front.
An old-fashioned three-point play from Manning put the Hawks up 33-16 and, following a three from Benjamin Vezele, Messier hit a three to push the lead back to 17.
“We’re getting the shots we want,” Gomes said. “When we have the balance, we’re tough. I thought towards the end of the first half we took too many threes and that made the game kind of interesting. Then we really came out in the second half, we made our layups and free throws.”
Hope made it interesting down the stretch, getting a layup from Andrews-Clements with 4:19 left to cut Hendricken’s lead to 38-28. Hendricken followed that with a turnover, and Kargbo hit a floater to get the Blue Wave within eight points.
Another turnover from the Hawks led to an Andrews-Clements bucket, making it 38-32.
“In the second half we got up by 15 or 16, and then we missed some easy buckets,” Gomes said. “It started to become their pace, they made a couple threes, and then it became interesting.”
But Bourdeau scored on Hendricken’s next possession, and Manning hit one free throw the next time the Hawks had the ball.
Hope tried to draw closer, but Hendricken kept answering. Two Palumbo free throws to put the Hawks up 11 with 42 seconds remaining essentially sealed the game.
Palumbo was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
“He’s got physical and mental toughness, and a lot of heart,” Gomes said. “I’m proud of him.”
Hendricken now sits in seventh place in the statewide standings with five regular-season games remaining.
“This month is critical,” Gomes said. “This month is so important. In February, you’re going one way. You’re going up, or you’re going down, and that’s where teams start to separate themselves.”
The Hawks’ next game is today on the road against 4-9 Portsmouth at 7 p.m.