The Bishop Hendricken basketball team hoped it would be peaking at this time of year. Instead, the last five days have left the Hawks fighting for their playoff lives.
After a 63-51 loss to first-place North Kingstown on Friday, the Hawks beat St. Raphael on Saturday in the conclusion of a suspended game. But on Monday, the Hawks lost a one-point heartbreaker to La Salle, and on Tuesday, they fell just short in a 62-57 loss to Cranston West.
The Hawks are now 8-8 in league play, and while they would be in both the Division I playoffs and the state tournament if the season ended today, they know they’re facing a fight to the finish.
“The thing with this season is all these games matter so much, with the power points ranking system and all these teams with six, seven, eight wins battling to get in,” Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes said. “We needed this game tonight. Now it just puts more emphasis on this next game. We’ve got to go to Coventry on Thursday and I think we’ve got to get one more victory in the next couple of games here to hopefully secure a spot in the divisionals. There’s no guarantees right now.”
The top 10 teams in Division I will qualify for the D-I playoffs. Hendricken is currently eighth, part of a tightly-packed group of six teams that are within three games of each other. In the race for the 16-team state tournament, which is based on power points, the Hawks have eight points. That puts them in a five-way tie for 12th place.
The Hawks have two regular season games left – Thursday at 9-6 Coventry and Monday at 6-9 South Kingstown. While they’re still in position to make the playoffs, they would certainly like to be in a better spot.
In that vein, the last two games stuck out as missed opportunities. The Hawks played well against La Salle – who’s 13-2 – and were pushing for a signature win. But the Rams prevailed by a point.
On Tuesday, the Hawks hosted Cranston West, a team they had beaten by three points in an earlier meeting. This time, the Hawks fell behind 7-0 and later gave up a 14-0 run late in the first half. While they battled back and led for part of the second half, they never really got over the hump. The Falcons put together an 8-2 burst late in the game to take control and made seven of nine free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
“Really no excuses,” Gomes said. “We come out not focused mentally and we go down 7-0 to start the ball game. We battled back. We made a change in the lineup to start the second half to get some energy out there. The kids played great. We battled back and took the lead. But we just seem to make mental mistakes at bad times. It’s an experience thing. I haven’t been through a season like this in many years. So we’re all kind of learning.”
After falling into the 7-0 hole, the Hawks settled in and started chipping away. They tied the game at 15-15 with 6:33 left. After a three-pointer by West’s Mike DeJesus, Will Parmlee scored four straight points to give the Hawks their first lead at 19-18 with 4:20 left.
Then it fell apart again. Tevin Goins scored inside with 4:03 left, touching off a 14-0 run in just a three-and-a-half minute span. The Hawks missed four shots and committed three turnovers in that stretch. West took advantage, getting a layup from David Vespia, three’s by DeJesus and Tyler Fann and two buckets inside by Mike Rainone to go up 32-19 with 29 seconds left in the half. Will Tavares ended the run on a floater with four seconds left, but the Hawks still went to the locker room trailing by 11.
“That’s tough, especially because we’re a good defensive team,” Gomes said. “A lot of credit to Cranston West. They broke our defense down – they were able to get it inside and they were able to get it outside. They made shots.”
To their credit, the Hawks came back with a vengeance. Sophomore Jason Rosario and junior Toks Ademola came off the bench to start the second half and provided a spark. Rosario hit a three on Hendricken’s first possession, and the Hawks ratcheted up the defense from there. They allowed just one field goal in the first 4:52 of the second half and put together a 15-2 run. A fast-break layup by Kazre Cummings capped the surge and put the Hawks in front 36-34.
“We knew they were going to come out with a second half run,” said West head coach Jim Moretti.
But the Falcons weathered it. A three-point play by James Weaver stopped the run before Cummings hit a runner to put the Hawks back in front by one. Rainone answered with a layup to put the Falcons ahead 39-38, and they would never trail again.
“This team has been battle-tested,” Moretti said. “We’ve played so many tough games. Even when we got a little rattled, we never quit.”
The Hawks went more than two minutes without a basket but were still within striking distance when Ryan Hagerty hit a short jumper to make it 41-40 with 8:24 left. After the teams traded points, DeJesus buried a three-pointer at the 5:43 mark. That sparked an 8-2 burst, with Rainone scoring inside and DeJesus stepping into another three to make it 51-44 with 2:57 left.
Duffie converted a three-point play to get the Hawks back within four then stole the ball, got fouled and hit one of two free throws to make it 51-48.
But the Falcons continued to deliver answers, pushing the lead back to five on three separate occasions after the Hawks had gotten within three. Ryan Henseler buried a three-pointer for the Hawks with 12 seconds left to make it 58-55, but Fann and Weaver both hit a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds to put the game on ice.
“Hendricken is still the giant,” Moretti said. “Everybody goes through Hendricken. That’s a big win for us in the standings and it gives us some confidence.”
Rainone led all scorers with 25 points and DeJesus added 12 points on four three-pointers. Cummings led the Hawks with 13 and Duffie chipped in 12. Tavares and Rosario had eight each.
The Hawks will now head for Coventry and a 7 p.m. tip tonight. They beat the Oakers 52-45 in a January meeting.
“I’m not upset with our guys’ effort,” Gomes said. “We battle out there every game. We just seem to make mental mistakes at real pivotal times in the game – turnovers, missing a layup or forgetting to defend somebody. Unfortunately, that’s part of the game, and we’ve got to learn from it. We can’t dwell on it. You’ve got to get right back to it. We’ll bounce back.”