After topping East Providence in the state play-in game, the No. 16 Cumberland boys basketball team shocked RI last Thursday at Cranston East, topping No. 1 Bishop Hendricken 62-55 to knock out the heavy favored Hawks, putting an end to their bid for four-straight championships.
The Clippers faced early adversity, falling behind by 10 points in the first half and trailing by six at the break. However, Cumberland would play tight defense in the second half to shut down the Hawks, and become the first 16th seed to ever beat a No. 1 in the history of the open state tournament.
“First off, we’d like to congratulate Cumberland, they played a great game. I thought they executed very well, I thought (Jackson) Zancan was a beast, they played very, very well. We had our opportunities, but it was just one of those nights where the ball wouldn’t go down. We couldn’t make free throws, we couldn’t make layups, it was just one of those nights and sometimes that happens,” said Hendricken coach Jamal Gomes after the loss.
The Clippers would begin chipping away at the Hendricken lead early in the second half, and would pull ahead with 6:05 remaining to make it 45-44. Cumberland would hit a key 3-pointer down the stretch, along with a handful of free throws to pull away with the decision.
Andre De Los Santos led Hendricken with 20 points scored while Bobby Fiorito would chip in 12. Zancan led the Clippers with a game-high 21 points.
“I thought we got off to a good start, got up by 10 points, but just didn’t have enough to finish it off and it really began early in the second half. Cumberland is a strong team and they had a great gameplan,” said Gomes. “I feel sad for our seniors since they did have a great season, but I told them that once you get to the third season, you have to bring your best. The records don’t matter, the seedings don’t matter, all that matters is who is better on that night, and tonight it was Cumberland.”
Gomes hopes that the loss will be a lesson for the younger Hawks on the roster, and will also help keep things in perspective moving forward.
“It’s a tough lesson for our guys since we’re used to winning and going all the way, but games like this help you realize how fortunate you are to be in this position and you start counting your blessings. I tell these guys to enjoy your time with your teammates because you never know when it is going to end, we obviously wished that it ended at the Ryan Center, but tonight it didn’t,” said Gomes.
The Hawks will graduate a handful of seniors, including captains Fiorito and De Los Santos. Gomes appreciates the impact that they have made throughout their careers, and expects his club to come back strong next winter.
“It was probably the greatest regular season that we have had in 20 years. Finishing 23-2 through the divisional playoffs, that is the best season that we’ve had in a long time,” said Gomes. “Bobby Fiorito has been with me for four years and had a great career, Andre De Los Santos had a great season and was our emotional leader. We had some other seniors in Chuck Hammond and Brian Schattle who were newer to the program but gave us their best. We’ll bounce back though, and we’ll be here next year.”