Heading into Monday night’s action, Bishop Hendricken was one of only three teams in Division I boys’ basketball with a perfect league record. When the dust settled, only one unbeaten remained – and it wasn’t the Hawks.
While Classical took its first loss against Smithfield, Hendricken hit for the road for North Kingstown and couldn’t overcome a shaky start to the second half in a 61-52 loss. That left La Salle with the label of last undefeated team. The Rams were 5-0 heading into a Wednesday game with Cranston East.
For the Hawks, the first loss was disappointing but they’ll chalk it up as part of the process of molding a contender.
“We scraped and battled to come back,” Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes said. “I’m proud of our guys. We worked hard. It wasn’t enough. North Kingstown is a strong team. They’re well-coached, they execute and they got the better of us tonight. My hat’s off to them.”
North Kingstown center Grant Gillis led all scorers with 16, while E.J. Nygren paced the Hawks with 12. The Skippers, whose only loss is to La Salle, improved to 5-1 with the victory. Hendricken moved to 4-1.
Early on, the game was a typical affair for the longtime hoops rivals. The largest lead of the first half for either team was four points.
But the tide started to turn just before halftime. The Hawks led 27-24 after a Dimitri Rosa three-pointer with 1:15 left, but North Kingstown scored the final four points of the half. Gillis made two free throws and Chris Lenox scored on a driving layup as the buzzer sounded.
And that was just the beginning.
The Hawks turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the second half, which set the stage for the Skippers to score five straight points.
Together with the late first half burst, it was a 9-0 run for the Skippers – a big number in an otherwise nip-and-tuck game.
“That was huge,” said North Kingstown coach Aaron Thomas. “At halftime, our whole mission was to come out for the first four minutes and set the tone for the second half.”
The Hawks briefly got the deficit down to two with 10:35 left but North Kingstown scored on its next trip, which touched off a 6-0 run. From that point on, the Hawks never got closer than five points.
“At the end of the first half, it was a one-point game,” Gomes said. “Then it becomes an eight, nine-point game.”
The Hawks remained within striking distance the rest of the way but, from the 6:53 mark to 1:54, they made just one field goal. That one bucket – part of a three-point play by Will Parmlee – cut the lead to six, but North’s Spencer Bode buried a three-pointer a minute later that essentially put the game back out of reach.
Gomes attributed the drought largely to a lack of transition opportunities.
“We weren’t getting out on the break because we weren’t stopping them from scoring,” Gomes said. “It’s really tough to run up and down the floor when the other team scores.”
The Hawks also struggled to score in the paint and had to settle for jumpers as they attempted a comeback.
“I thought we got hurt on the interior,” Gomes said. “That’s where we really got beat up. Our interior game was non-existent. We were relying on all penetration from guards.”
At the other end, the Skippers shot 53-percent from the field in the second half and also made 11 of 14 free throws over the final four minutes.
“The biggest thing we talked about at halftime was that at times, we thought we broke down in our offense,” Thomas said. “We weren’t getting things to the second level. We were running one screen and if it wasn’t working, we were just burning ahead and going to the hole. That’s what hurt us against La Salle. We had a long talk about that – running the play through and seeing what happens. That’s what we did in the second half.”
The Skippers also ran. They turned Hendricken turnovers into eight points, which included a steal and dunk by Matt Madoian that brought the house down with 5:30 left.
“I tell our guys there’s a difference between a turnover and a bad turnover,” Thomas said. “A bad turnover leads to direct points for the other team or it leads to a foul and you send them to the free-throw line. Our team is young. There’s going to be some games where they take some lumps.”
Nygren, a senior who has worked his way into the lineup in recent weeks, was a bright spot for the Hawks with 12 points. He made three three-pointers. Kyle Henseler added eight while Matt Duffie and Chris O’Brien scored seven each.
“We’ll bounce back,” Gomes said. “I told the guys in the locker room, ‘We’ve got to put this behind us because we’ve got two more tough games this week.’ And every league game matters.”
The Hawks were scheduled to play Cranston West on Wednesday, with results unavailable at press time. They’ll play Ledyard, Conn., in the CCRI Invitational on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Vincent A. Cullen Field House on the CCRI Knight Campus.