My Pitch

Warwick hoops set for winter season

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 12/10/19

Believe it or not, the fall sports season is now entirely behind us, and we are closing in on the winter sports season. Last year was a very compelling basketball season for our Warwick based teams. Let's set the table and take a quick look at Warwick

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My Pitch

Warwick hoops set for winter season

Posted

Believe it or not, the fall sports season is now entirely behind us, and we are closing in on the winter sports season.

Last year was a very compelling basketball season for our Warwick based teams.

Let’s set the table and take a quick look at Warwick high school hoops.

Perhaps the biggest shocker in the state across all sports last season was Bishop Hendricken falling in the opening round of the open state tournament.

The Hawks rolled throughout the regular season and seemed poised to capture another state championship. Just when the state thought the Hawks were invincible, they fell to North Kingstown in the Division I Championship.

Most people, including myself, fully expected to see a Hendricken-NK rematch in the open finals, but were shocked when the massive underdog Cumberland Clippers dropped the defending state champs in the opening round.

I still remember that night in the Cranston East gym. Cumberland was just one step ahead and I was waiting for the Hawks to snap out of their funk and piece together a big run to take control. It never happened.

In my opinion, this is the biggest storyline heading into the basketball season. How will the Hawks recover? Can they recover?

Remember, Hendricken graduated guys like Bobby Fiorito and Andre De Los Santos. Tyriek Weeks also transferred back to nearby Pilgrim to play for the Pats.

Hendricken returns some key players including Angel Sanchez and have the best coach in the state in Jamal Gomes. The Hawks will certainly be competitive, but will they push for a title?

Another big surprise last season was Toll Gate.

The Titans were considered a solid team that would be a tough draw in Division III heading into the season. By season’s end though, they were in the DIII finals and went on to reach the Elite Eight of the open state tournament.

Like Hendricken, Toll Gate graduated some key players including its big three in Aiden Areson, Brandon Scott and Kavi Simpson.

Will the young guys and returners be able to fill that void? Scott was among the state’s top players last year regardless of division while Areson and Simpson proved to be DI-caliber players down the stretch. It will be interesting to see how Toll Gate’s roster shakes out and which players emerge.

Across town, the Pilgrim Patriots enter their second season with coach Matt Fontaine.

Pilgrim finished with just three wins last year while it went through a changing of the guard. This season, the Patriots are confident and are happy to finally have consistency in terms of the coach, scheme and roster.

And even though the scoreboard did not indicate it, the Patriots had some quality players emerge last season. Guys like Jared Reminder, Ethan Asadorian and Dana Baptiste are all returning, plus the addition of Weeks.

Pilgrim is interesting because it is truly a wild card in Division II. Now, is a DII title in the cards? I would have to say no … but at the same time, there is so much uncertainty surrounding this team that it makes it hard to say for sure.

Usually when a team is surrounded by uncertainty, that is a bad sign. In this case though, I feel like it is a good thing. Expectations are modest at best and the Pats are flying under the radar. Let’s see if they can surprise us and turn things around this year.

If they are unable to though, I think a move down to Division III may be something to consider heading into 2020-2021.

The Pilgrim girls were a scrappy bunch last year that advanced to the Division III finals and lost in a heartbreaker.

I met with the team last week to do a preview and to get to know the team … but I already knew the team because it returns a big chunk of its core from last year.

Sometimes it is tough to remember the ages of players and the rosters each passing year. I was actually surprised at how many familiar faces I saw at Pilgrim’s practice last week.

Nadine Ogni, Hannah French, Sara Langevin and a handful of others return this season, so, the Lady Pats should once again be a major contender in Division III this year.

Defense was the team’s calling card last year. It wasn’t shy when admitting that it lacked shooting and relied heavily on shutting opposing offenses down.

They did just that and made it to the finals. When speaking with the girls last week, they said the gameplan will be largely the same this time around, however, they spent much of the offseason working on shooting specifically.

If Pilgrim can sort out its offensive woes and become formidable on each end of the floor, the Pats may be a powerhouse in the division and maybe even take a game or two in the open tournament.

I have always been a big believer in big game experience and continuity, and the Pilgrim girls have both.

Lastly is the Toll Gate girls.

The Lady Titans also made the Division III playoffs last year after having a solid regular season.

Toll Gate graduated star players in Emily May and Isabel Donnelly, so this could very much be a team that takes a step back. Will it though? Coach Owen Paquet has always fielded tough, competitive teams, so if I had to guess, I would say that this team is will still be a player in Division III … it may just have a limited ceiling.

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