The first time it played Mt. Pleasant this season, the Bishop Hendricken basketball team lost by five. But that was back in January, the low point of a 1-4 start to league play. The Hawks won 10 straight league games after that and looked like a much different team as they headed to CCRI for Thursday’s state tournament second-round game against the Kilties.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they met the same result.
Mt. Pleasant built a first-half lead and held off the Hawks every step of the way en route to a 63-56 victory and a spot in the quarterfinals.
“We struggled, on the offensive end in particular,” said Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes. “I thought we had a good gameplan for containing Mt. Pleasant’s top scoring threats. I felt on the other end, we didn’t play like we had played the previous 10 games. And Mt. Pleasant played very well.”
The loss put Hendricken out of championship contention for the second year in a row. The Hawks had won seven consecutive state titles before losing to Tiverton in last year’s state tournament.
This year, the Hawks looked poised for a run, with 12 wins in their final 13 regular-season games and a first-round playoff win over Tolman.
But the Kilties put an end to Hendricken’s title hopes.
“They’re a tough match-up for us,” Gomes said. “I give them a lot of credit. We came a long way this year. We just didn’t have enough Thursday night.”
The Hawks had some good luck in the opening minutes, with Lee Messier drilling a deep three from the wing for an early lead.
It was a sign that the Hawks might be hot, but instead, they went cold. They trailed by seven at the half, 35-28.
“I didn’t think it was the best execution of our offense,” Gomes said. “With that said, we were getting good shots. The shots we were missing were clean, open looks. I do think we were a little too perimeter oriented.”
Despite the struggles, Hendricken has always figured it could win with defense, even on a bad shooting night.
On this night, the Kilties made that difficult.
Hendricken honed in Mt. Pleasant point guard Kip Stewart, who had 28 points in a first-round win over Tiverton. Gomes felt the gameplan worked – except that the rest of the Kilties stepped up.
“Our gameplan was to take the ball out of their point guard’s hands,” Gomes said. “We wanted to make their role players make decisions with the basketball, and they made good decisions. They really stepped up.”
With their backs against the wall, the Hawks made a run in the second half, but when they got within two, the Kilties sprinted away with a thunderous dunk and a 3-pointer after a Hendricken turnover.
“That just took the wind out of our sails,” Gomes said. “It was tough after that.”
Mt. Pleasant’s Jovel Beckford led all scorers with 19 points. Stewart added 13 and Zdahmond Dale had 10.
“Athletically, they’re very good, and their quickness is tough to handle,” Gomes said. “Because we were struggling to score, that made every defensive possession that much more important. They were tough to stop. When you make shots, you have a bigger margin for error, and we didn’t do that.”
The Hawks were led by Messier’s 17 points. Nick Bourdeau added 10, while Corey Palumbo and Kazre Cummings had nine each.
Though Thursday marked the end of the line, Gomes was proud of his team’s accomplishments, especially the improvement it showed in rebounding from its slow start.
“I’m very proud of our guys and I’m proud of our seniors,” Gomes said. “We came a long way. We had a slow start and had a lot of injuries to deal with. But we worked hard and got better. We grew and developed so much. We just didn’t have enough against Mt. Pleasant.”
The Hawks will bid farewell to seniors Bourdeau, Palumbo, Julian Mardenli, Gerry Manning, Michael Iavarone and Rilwan Ilumoka.
Mt. Pleasant lost to Hope 49-48 in Sunday’s regional final.