The Hendricken basketball team hadn’t had the smoothest start to the season, but Gerry Manning made any lingering bad feelings disappear very quickly.
Manning made a difficult floater in the lane with a hand in his face as time expired on Tuesday night to lift the Hawks to a dramatic 64-62 win over Coventry.
The basket was a culmination of a big second half charge that saw Hendricken overcome a five-point deficit with just under two minutes to play, and it came on the heels of a league-opening loss last Friday night to North Kingstown. Add that to an out-of-state tournament loss Hendricken suffered over the weekend, and the Hawks were in need of a win.
“This was kind of important for us,” Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes said. “Early in the season, I was telling them in the locker room, ‘These games early on, until you’ve got everything in place, you’ve got to grind it out. You’ve just got to find a way to grind it.’ I thought we did. We were down five or six with a couple minutes to go, but we grinded it out.”
Nick Bordeau led the Hawks with 19 points, while Corey Palumbo scored 14 and Julian Mardenli added 12.
But it was Manning’s number that Gomes called on the final play of the game.
After Bourdeau took a charge to get Hendricken the ball back with nine seconds left, Gomes took a timeout with six seconds remaining.
Out of the break, Mardenli inbounded the ball to Manning at the top of the key. He dribbled the clock down to about three seconds before making a move left towards the basket, rising up and banking in the shot for the win.
The play didn’t actually go quite like it was drawn up, but it was enough to get the job done.
“The play was designed to get me the ball, dribble to the right side, kind of clear out and take my man to the hole,” Manning said. “It was kind of different – we didn’t really do that. I just kind of threw it up and it went in.”
However it worked, Gomes was proud of the way Manning, who finished with 11 points, handled the big moment.
“We ran that play for Gerry to break down his guy and score – because I wanted to test this,” Gomes said, pointing to his heart. “He responded very well. I think that’s going to be a defining moment for him as the season moves on.”
Of course, Manning wouldn’t have even had the opportunity had Hendricken not fought back to tie the game.
The Hawks actually held a 31-25 lead at halftime, but Coventry went on a 13-2 run to take a 38-33 lead with 12:08 to play.
The game remained close, with Hendricken tying the score at 44 on a jumper by Mike King with 8:20 left, but the Oakers always had a response. They went up 49-46 on a three-pointer by Doug Auger, then 54-48 on another Auger three with 5:30 to play.
Hendricken never let the lead get any larger than that, though, as Palumbo continually kept his team in the game by driving to the basket and drawing fouls. He took 12 free throws in the second half, making 10 of them.
“Coventry was putting a lot of pressure on us,” Palumbo said. “They were playing good D. It was tough for us to do anything. Shots weren’t really falling for us, so I took it to the basket.”
His final free throws came with 2:07 to play, and it brought Hendricken within 60-57. But Coventry answered with a driving layup from Aaron Greenwood on its next possession to make it a five-point game and the Hawks missed a shot on their follow-up possession.
Then, Hendricken turned a switch.
Palumbo took a charge with 1:35 remaining to give the Hawks the ball back, and Mardenli made Coventry pay. He received a pass in the right corner and buried a crucial three-pointer, bringing the deficit to just two points at 62-60.
“He made that tough shot in the corner,” Gomes said. “That was a big shot right there. A big shot.”
After a Hendricken timeout, Coventry turned the ball back over, and Bourdeau converted on a putback off a miss from Palumbo to tie the score with 42 seconds remaining.
Palumbo then stole the inbounds pass, and Hendricken took a timeout with 34 seconds left. Out of the timeout, however, Bordeau lost control of the ball down low, giving it back to the Oakers.
But he made up for it, taking the charge at the other end to get Hendricken the ball back and set up Manning’s game-winner.
“I think our defense down the stretch really got us some offensive opportunities,” Gomes said.
Greenwood led Coventry with 15 points, while Brendan Haynes had 13 and Garrett Douglas added 20.
Hendricken was also playing without perhaps its best scorer, junior Lee Messier, who has been out with an ankle injury for over two weeks. Junior Will Tavares was also sidelined with an ankle injury he suffered before the season. Both of them are expected back soon, and Messier may play as quickly as today when the Hawks continue league play at South Kingstown at 7 p.m.
“This meant a lot to us,” Palumbo said. “We worked hard, and we needed a win like this to get our season started.”