The shot to get Bishop Hendricken into last year’s state tournament semifinals swished through the net but was a split second late. It was a tough ending, but it had been a remarkable run. The Hawks struggled mightily to score and ended up one point away from the Final Four anyway.
“We were a half second away from going back to the Ryan Center,” said head coach Jamal Gomes. “Our issue was scoring, but we played tremendous defense.”
That means the formula for more success this season is pretty simple – the same defense that made last year’s run possible, plus a big dose of offensive improvement.
“We’ll defend again,” Gomes said. “If we score the ball, we’ll be in great shape.”
Gomes believes the potential is there.
The Hawks graduated their top defensive player, Kazre Cummings, as well as their top scorers in Will Tavares and Ryan Hagerty. In their place is a blend of veterans who are ready to step up and talented young players poised to make a splash.
“It’s a younger group this year, but I like the chemistry,” Gomes said. “We’ve got a few returners combined with some talented young guys. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.”
And seeing if they can score.
“The difference with this team is they have more of a natural instinct to push the ball and get out on the break,” Gomes said. “That will lead to more scoring. I think we’ve got a lot of potential. We can score in a number of different ways.”
The most experienced players are senior forward Will Parmlee and junior guard Matt Duffie, who were key parts of last season’s playoff run.
Parmlee is serving as a captain and Gomes expects him to emerge as a viable scoring threat in the post.
“He’s about 6’1 and he can jump through the roof,” Gomes said. “He’s an excellent rebounder and he’s improved his ability to finish around the basket. He’s going to he have a good year.”
Duffie returns after taking over the point guard duties midway through last season. He’s working back into basketball shape after starting at cornerback for the Hendricken football team.
“He’s a defensive wizard, and he’s improving offensively,” Gomes said.
Sophomore guard Kyle Henseler, who was a starter early in the season last year, has more experience under his belt now and is ready to be a big contributor, as well. Junior Jason Rosario has also flashed a lot of potential.
Senior power forward Garfield Coustard and 6’5 juniors Ira Lough and Andrew Ciacciarelli will help out Parmlee up front. Coustard and Lough saw some action last year, while Ciacciarelli transferred in from Cranston West.
The Hawks also have seniors Toks Ademola, Eric Nygren, Chris O’Brien and juniors Michael Muto and Jonathan Paquette. New to the varsity roster are sophomores Matthew Ricci and Dimitri Rosa, as well as a freshman whose name will be familiar to Rhode Island hoops fans. Justin Mazzulla is the younger brother of former Hendricken star Joe Mazzulla, a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year who went on to a solid Division I career at West Virginia University.
Justin Mazzulla has grabbed a spot on the varsity squad and may quickly make a name for himself.
“He’s going to be a great player,” Gomes said.
The Hawks have about a week of practice under their belts at this point, and it’s still a work in progress. Gomes doesn’t know how the starting lineup shakes out.
“We play Toll Gate Friday and then we have a couple of scrimmages,” Gomes said. “Next Friday, we open league play with Mt. Pleasant and by that game, we’ll have a good idea of how we shape up.”
And the goals are clear.
“Our No. 1 goal is to be the best defensive team in the state,” Gomes said. “Our second goal is to peak at the right time and our third goal is to score more points. If we do that and compete as best we can, it’ll be a good season.”