Nine days after its most lopsided loss of the season, the Bishop Hendricken basketball team has given itself a chance at redemption.
And the Hawks are finally headed back to the Ryan Center.
After a three-year hiatus from the state semifinals, fifth-seeded Hendricken is one of the final four teams remaining in the Credit Unions of RI Boys’ Basketball open tournament, thanks to a convincing 82-52 win over No. 13 Mt. Hope in Sunday’s quarterfinals at Brown University.
In the time since losing badly to La Salle in the Division I tournament semifinals, Hendricken has now won two games in the state tournament and is a win away from playing for the state championship. The Hawks beat East Greenwich 39-35 in the Round of 16 on Wednesday.
“You go back to last year, we hit a shot a half-second after the buzzer (in a one-point loss to Hope in the state quarterfinals),” said Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes. “It feels good to get back to the Ryan Center. It’s been four years. This group of kids we have this year, they’ve been tremendous all year long.”
Hendricken will play in the semifinals on Friday at 8 p.m., and its opponent will be La Salle, the top-seed in the tournament, which beat defending state champion Classical 56-52 in the quarterfinals. The other semifinal features fellow Division I teams Coventry and Central.
The Hawks – who are making their first appearance in the semifinals since winning their seventh straight championship in 2010 – looked like a team worthy of a semifinal berth on Sunday. They used a balanced, yet fast-paced offensive attack to seize control right from the opening tip, and they never gave it up. Matt Duffie and Garfield Coustard each had 19 points, while Will Parmlee had 17, including a pair of dunks.
“As a captain I’ve been talking to the team a lot about staying together, stick together as a unit,” Parmlee said. “We went out there and played well together. Everyone played well. We were all on the same page. If felt really good to go get that W.”
Mt. Hope, the Division III tournament runner-up, was coming off of an upset over No. 4 West Warwick in the Round of 16, but Hendricken quelled any thoughts of another upset with an 18-4 run to start the game.
All five starters – Duffie, Parmlee, Coustard, Justin Mazzulla and Kyle Henseler – scored during that stretch, with most of the points coming in transition. The Huskies couldn’t slow the pace, as they missed eight of their first 10 shots and committed four turnovers.
“It was tremendous on the defensive end and on the offensive end,” Gomes said. “It felt good for the ball going in tonight. When the ball goes in it just takes off that pressure on both ends of the floor.”
Mt. Hope’s Matt Scott – who had a game-high 20 points – hit a three to make the score 18-7, but the Hawks followed that up with a 12-0 to extend the lead out to 23 points.
By halftime, Hendricken led 45-19, and the game was all but over already.
“Honestly, we’ve been preparing for this team, and we’ve been really looking forward to this game,” Parmlee said.
In the second half, Scott took threes on three of Mt. Hope’s first five possessions, but he made only one, and Hendricken’s offensive continued to soar. The Hawks never let their lead get below 24, and they led by as many as 36 points. Their 82 points were the most they’ve scored in a game this season.
“Sometimes when you’re up 30 it’s hard, but in this atmosphere it’s a playoff game,” Parmlee said. “We’re going to go play our semifinal game at the Ryan Center. So for us, it was definitely all 32 minutes meant everything.”
Parmlee had one of his best games of the season, giving Hendricken a strong inside presence to combat Mt. Hope big man Alex Francis and providing a momentum boost with both of his dunks.
“Will Parmlee was tremendous,” Gomes said. “That’s the best game of his career, and he saved it for today. Hopefully he’s got a couple more left in him.”
Francis ended the game with 15 points, while Kyle Valenzuela had 11 for Mt. Hope. Henseler added eight for Hendricken, and Mazzulla chipped in with six.
Ten different players scored for the Hawks.
“A lot of that comes from us playing as a team,” Parmlee said. “We’re unselfish. We share the ball. No one is continuously taking the same shot over and over.”
The Hawks’ dominating victory was dramatically different than its win over East Greenwich in the previous round. In that game, they survived a brutal shooting night to earn the 39-35 victory over the D-III regular-season champion last Wednesday at CCRI.
The 39 points were a season-low for the Hawks and 35 was the second-lowest total of East Greenwich’s campaign. Hendricken shot 29 percent from the field and had a second-half stretch of 10 minutes, 15 seconds without a field goal.
East Greenwich didn’t set the world on fire either, shooting 32 percent from the field. The Avengers did lead for much of the second half, but when they didn’t pull away, the Hawks seized the moment. After trailing 30-25 with 4:49 left – their largest deficit of the night – the Hawks out-scored East Greenwich 14-5 the rest of the way.
Duffie broke the 10-plus minute drought with a putback at 4:27 to make it a three-point game and start the comeback. He had another follow a minute later to make it 30-29. After the Avengers pushed the lead back to three, Chris O’Brien tied the game on a three-pointer with 2:37 left. After an East Greenwich turnover, Coustard converted a three-point play to give Hendricken its first lead since the 8:26 mark.
Mazzulla and Coustard each made a pair of free throws when the Hawks were in the one-and-one to ice the victory. East Greenwich didn’t score from the 2:44 mark until a free throw with 13 seconds left.
Mazzulla had 12 points to lead the Hawks and Duffie scored six.
Hendricken’s next game will be its biggest in four years, as it will play La Salle at the Ryan Center on Friday at 8 p.m. The game is the second of a semifinal doubleheader, as Central and Coventry will get the night started with a 6 p.m. game.
The Hawks lost to La Salle by 10 points in the regular season and then were blown out by 15 points in the D-I tournament.
The Rams are 22-1 on the year and are the D-I regular season and tournament champions.
The state championship game will be held on Saturday at the Ryan Center at 7:30 p.m.
“Our guys have been resilient all year long,” Gomes said. “We lost to North Kingstown twice, we lost to La Salle twice, we lost a tough one at Central, we lost on a buzzer beater to Coventry. (Losing to La Salle) wasn’t the first time we got punched in the mouth. But we seem to come back quickly.”