And just like that, we have hit the midpoint of the winter sports season. Some sports are even approaching the end of their seasons.
It’s been a couple weeks since I have done predictions, breakdowns, observations, so I am excited to shift my focus back toward the upcoming playoff pushes and races that we will be watching in Warwick.
Here are a few takes on the season so far and what I am expecting moving forward:
First off, I think it is already time to crown the Bishop Hendricken swim team as the state champion.
I was looking forward to covering last Friday’s meet against Barrington. Barrington is the second best team in the state, was undefeated, and seemed to be the only team in Rhode Island that the Hawks would have to watch out for.
Although it wasn’t the blowout that Hendricken is used to enjoying, and Barrington even won multiple events, the Hawks took home a comfortable win and cemented their place as the top club this season.
Anything can happen, but I don’t see any team knocking Hendricken off moving forward.
The state meet could be interesting since it’s a pool (no pun intended) of teams, but still, Hendricken looked poised to claim it’s XX title in XXX years.
Between guys like CJ Sheldon, who won all of his events and is the best swimmer in the state currently, Aidan Blanchette, Grant Dator and others, Hendricken won’t be knocked off this year, I just can’t see it.
Speaking of Hendricken, it is also clear that the basketball team will be there until the very end.
I wrote about this earlier in the season, but am now even more confident that this team has everything it needs to win a state title.
Sure, the Hawks lost pretty much their entire starting core from last season, but Sebastian Thomas has been the best player in the state to this point, Angel Sanchez and Helio Sousa have been top-notch, and Sebastian Basilio and Jason Onye have been a combined force in the paint.
Jamal Gomes knows what buttons to press and when to press them. I had my doubts as to what this team’s ceiling would be this season … it is clear that it’s as high an any other group, and with big wins including against the defending state champion North Kingstown under its belt, it’s hard to picture the Hawks not there come March.
Another basketball team that had some questions heading into the season was the Pilgrim boys.
The club has been rebuilding the past two seasons but looked to take a step forward now that some of its returners have developed and they received an influx of talent in Hendricken transfers Tyriek Weeks and Peter Kay.
The Pats got off to an inconsistent start and dropped a couple early matches.
However, Pilgrim has turned things around and has won six of its past seven games, currently sitting at 7-4 and right in the middle of the playoff hunt.
Weeks has been stellar and probably the best player in Division II. Kay has taken hold of the starting point guard position, while returners like Dana Baptiste, Jared Reminder and Kenny Rix have been key contributors.
Now, there are still a few teams ahead of them and Pilgrim will likely have an uphill battle to seriously contend … but I feel that this team is trending in the right direction and may surprise a few people down the stretch.
The girls team that intrigued me the most heading into the winter was the Pilgrim girls basketball team.
After making a surprise appearance in the Division III finals last year and nearly winning it, I was excited to see how this club would fare now that it is no longer an afterthought. Most of the roster from last season returned as well.
The biggest knock on the Lady Pats last year was on offense. Pilgrim boasted the top defense in the division, but was lacking offensively, which allowed teams to shut down the inside and dare the Pats to shoot.
Pilgrim was adamant about improving on that end this season, and although they have been better, it still is a work in progress.
Although Pilgrim has put up some 50-point performances and have kept pace in the standings, it is going to need to find its offensive rhythm night in and night out in order to be a true contender.
There is enough talent, and especially enough experience on this team to get it done. It will be interesting to see if it happens in the next few weeks.
Some more quick-hit thoughts:
After a slow start to the season, the Toll Gate boys basketball has also turned things around and is poised to return to the playoffs. Although it seems unlikely that the Titans will make a deep run last they did last year, they have forced us to at least take them serious moving forward.
Same with the Toll Gate girls. The Lady Titans have been holding their own and keeping pace, but will they be able to take a large enough step forward to matter down the stretch?
Lastly, Pilgrim hockey is also looking like the top dog in Division III.
The Pats dropped a contest to West Warwick/EWG, who sits right behind them in the standings, but rebounded nicely with a 4-1 win over Narragansett last week. It’s exciting that Pilgrim has some legitimate competition this year, but I do feel that the Pats have the best roster and should be seated as the favorite at this point.