The Bishop Hendricken Hawks claimed the 2019 Freshman Basketball Title on Saturday afternoon, beating the Tolman Tigers 56-40 at Johnston High School.
“It feels great,” Hendricken head coach Matt D’Ambra said. “The kids really bought in all year. They gave me everything they had. We worked hard. And, this wasn’t the prettiest game, but Tolman’s a good program and they’ve got some really good players. I knew that it was going to be a challenge, but the kids rose up and we just made a few more plays than they did. I’m excited.”
The top scorers in the contest were Ryan Osley, a forward from Hendricken, and Jaylyn Baptista, a guard from Tolman, who tallied 16 points each.
“Ryan started off the season coming off the bench,” D’Ambra said. “But he’s made incredible improvement and he’s really focused. And I think having me, I’m a big guy, so I have appreciated for big guys and he has good footwork and he’s got a great future. And he’s carried us the last couple of games. So, it was a pleasure to coach him and he’s a great kid on top of it.”
Osley was content with how the season went.
“I thought it was good,” Osley said. “We all worked hard all season and we just played well as a team. Today wasn’t our best game, but we got out of here with a win, so that’s all that we wanted.”
Second in scoring were the Hawks’ Brandyn Durand and Jayden Weeden, who scored 13 apiece, while Tolman’s Michel Cheaye finished third in total scoring with 12 points.
Durand was happy with the way Hendricken shared the ball and got everyone involved.
“It’s a great team win overall, Durand said. “It was a very balanced scoring attempt by our whole team. And, Tolman put up a great fight up until the end and I think we wore them out a little bit. It’s a great feeling to win the championship, as always.”
With the win, the Hawks conclude the regular season and playoffs with an overall record of 19-1 while Tolman finishes at 14-2.
Hendricken got the scoring started when point guard Jack Graham made a steal and passed to Weeden for a fast break layup. Graham finished with four points on top of many assists.
“He’s our engine,” D’Ambra said. “And, he played well. He’s a gamer. And, he’s ready to play at all times.”
“Our whole team, we worked hard for this,” Graham said. “Practiced every day. Even though, we’re just freshmen, we work so hard just doing everything.”
Next, Tolman’s Baptista made a bucket and knotted the game at 2.
Then the Hawks took a 7-4 advantage when Evan Dion buried a shot from downtown. Dion had seven points in the game.
Hendricken upped its advantage to 14-6 with a little under 10 minutes to play in the half after Osley made an old-fashioned 3-point play, and then, Weeden and Durand each scored a bucket.
Over the next minute and a half, Tolman got two deuces from Cheaye and a 3-ball from Baptista during a 7-0 spurt and got within one.
But the Hawks answered that with a 10-1 run, which started when Weeden put back his own miss and ended with Graham sinking a fast break layup, which gave the Hawks a 24-15 lead with 4:06 left.
With two minutes left, Hendricken’s Durand scored with a putback, and then Graham dished to Durand for an alley-oop layup, which ballooned the Hawks advantage to 14.
Hendricken would take a 30-18 buffer into the break.
Tolman started the second half with a 6-0 run, on two baskets from Cheaye, and another from Baptista and got within six.
But Hendricken got four points from Osley after that, and went up by ten with 13 minutes remaining in the game.
That margin carried on for five minutes until Weeden put the Hawks up 43-30 with a fast break layup with 8:15 left.
Then with one minute remaining, Hendricken grabbed its largest lead of the contest at 56-40 when Weeden drilled a shot from beyond the arc, and then, Osley finished with a layup.