The Hawks edged unbeaten, defending Division I Champion North Kingstown 51-49 on Monday night during an intense basketball shootout at Bishop Hendricken High School in front of a packed gymnasium.
Sebastian Thomas, Hendricken’s junior point guard, has been having a heck of a season and this game was no different. Thomas scored a game-high 21 points to go along with 10 assists, and four steals.
“He’s a great player,” Hawks head coach Jamal Gomes said. “In my opinion, he’s one of the top guards. You saw three of the top guards in the state today in (Clay) Brochu, Thomas, and (Nick) Sacchetti. And I think also Angel Sanchez with his speed and athleticism. So, I’m very proud of our guys. Sebastian Thomas is a great player. He still has a ways to go, but he is a great player and I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Sanchez, a senior guard, finished second in scoring for the Hawks with 12 points.
Brochu, North Kingstown’s senior sharpshooter, topped the Skippers with 17 points, and Sacchetti, a senior guard, chipped in 15 points.
North Kingstown held an early 5-0 advantage after John Quainoo, a senior guard, buried a 3-point shot, and then Sacchetti scored with a put back.
Hendricken’s first bucket came a little under three minutes into the contest when Sanchez drove to the hoop and made a spinning layup and pulled the Hawks within 5-2.
Brochu made a four-point play after that, where he was fouled while sinking a 3-pointer, and that gave the Skippers a 9-2 lead.
Midway through the first half, North Kingstown extended its buffer to 14-6 when Brochu buried another trey.
Then, with 6:10 remaining, Brochu dished to Quainoo, who made a three-point shot, and then forty-one seconds later, the Skippers owned their largest lead of the half at 21-10 following two free throws from Sacchetti.
The Hawks answered with a 9-0 spurt, which began with a David Lynch jumper, and was capped by layups from Thomas, Justin Perez, and Andres Andujar, and it got Hendricken within 21-19 with under three minutes to play in the half.
But the Skippers ended the half with a 7-2 run, which featured a Geoff Coyne three-pointer, and a four-point play by John Deresky as North Kingstown headed into the break clinging to a 28-21 lead.
Nonetheless, two minutes into the second half, Thomas made a layup, plus two free throws, and then Lynch scored with a put back and got the Hawks within 30-27.
But again the Skippers answered. Sacchetti sank a jumper and Shane Kenyon, a three-pointer, and it put North Kingstown on top 35-28.
The Skippers built their most substantial margin of the game at 43-31 with 7:30 to play, after Sacchetti made a three-pointer and two free throws before Brochu added a trey.
However, the Hawks quickly cut into the shortfall and got within 43-41 with 5:44 left on the heels of an Onye put back, an Andujar bucket, and three Sanchez layups.
Then, with 3:34 remaining, Hendricken inched closer at 46-45 after Thomas sank a pair of free throws.
During the Hawks next trip down the court, Hendricken captured its first lead of the contest when Sanchez made a twisting, driving layup and put the Hawks up 47-46 with 2:21 left.
Next, with 1:45 remaining, Andujar added a layup and extended Hendricken’s safeguard to 49-46.
With 54.3 seconds left, Onye made one of two from the charity stripe after he was fouled during a put back attempt, and that gave the Hawks a 50-47 advantage.
Twenty-one seconds later, Sacchetti made a driving basket and pulled the Skippers within 50-49.
Then, with 21.5 seconds remaining, Thomas made one of two free throws and upped the Hawks buffer to 51-49.
North Kingstown had the final shot and tried for the win, but Brochu’s deep three-point attempt from the left wing, which was well-defended, fell way short of the mark as time expired.
The Hawks battled from behind for much of the game, but they came up big when it mattered most.
“In the locker room before the game we talked about collective will,” Gomes explained. “That this game was going to come down to our will to win; to do the things that it takes to be winners and to be champions, which is defend, play tough, and rebound the basketball.”
“In the second half, we did that very well,” Gomes continued. “In the first half, North Kingstown won that battle. That’s why we were down. Second half, we won the battle and we won the game. But this won’t be the only time we play them, we’ll see them again. NK is a great team with a great coaching staff and great players. We feel blessed to come out with a victory tonight.”
And it took everyone on the Hawks roster to squeak out the win.
“This was a team effort,” Gomes concluded. “You don’t get anywhere without the entire team working together. So, I’m very proud of Angel. I thought our guys on defense like Andres Andujar, Helio Sousa, and “big” Jason Onye came in and gave us some big minutes tonight. David Lynch, I thought he battled really hard, so a lot of good things. Something to build on.”
With the victory, the Hawks improved their league record to 6-1 while it dropped the Skippers to 6-1.
Hendricken hosted the East Providence Townies (5-1) on Wednesday night, but the score was unavailable at press time.