The 2023-24 Rhode Island Interscholastic League is tipping off this week as teams begin their regular season schedules. Here is a look at where Warwick’s teams stand heading into the winter:
The 2023-24 Rhode Island Interscholastic League is tipping off this week as teams begin their regular season schedules.
Here is a look at where Warwick’s teams stand heading into the winter:
THE DEFENDING CHAMPS
Last year’s finish: Won the state championship over La Salle. (17-1 record)
Key returners: Dylan Lynch, James Caldarella
Key losses: Azmar Abdullah, Eze Wali, Mike Paquette
Outlook: The Hawks are in familiar territory as they are set to defend their title with a new-look lineup.
Last year’s team was the heavy favorite entering the season with Abdullah and Wali returning as the league’s best 1-2 punch. The duo was every bit the dynamo that it was projected to be, with Abdullah earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors and Wali also grabbing All-State, while Paquette proved to be a more than worthy complement and taking home MVP of the state finals.
Caldarella and Lynch return after coming off the bench for the Hawks and will be relied on heavily as they turn the page. Caldarella’s role expanded as the season wore on and he was a nice depth piece in the playoffs. Lynch will need to jump right into the mix, along with Marcus Sukkar, for the Hawks to start off strong and keep pace while they learn more about their roster.
Jamal Gomes is the best coach in Rhode Island and his system is full proof. Hendricken will likely drop some games in the first half of the season, but should be rolling come playoff time.
Pilgrim Lady Pats
Last year’s finish: Won Division III Championship over Narragansett. (13-5 record)
Key returners: Amaya Coffie, Jenna Madden, Kiera Maher
Key losses: Faith Meade, Gianna Ramos
Outlook: The Pilgrim girls dropped down to Division III and immediately thrived last season, finishing in first place then surging to a championship win.
The Pats will now enter this winter as one of the favorites to win its division as much of the core has returned this season. Meade’s departure will force Pilgrim to find a new facilitator in the back court, while losing Ramos will also soften things up a bit under the basket.
Maher emerged as one of the best role players in the division last season and should carry the load when replacing Meade. Maher does not have the same experience that Meade had last season, but she has enough talent and minutes to be a worthy replacement.
Madden will continue to provide some juice as a shooter, while Coffie was the team’s best defender last year and will continue to be a pest for opposing guards.
How will Pilgrim hold up in the paint, though? None of these returners boast Ramos’ size and strength, which was key in forcing teams to shoot from the outside. Finding this answer will be perhaps the team’s top priority.
ALL HEALED UP
Toll Gate Lady Titans
Last year’s finish: Fell in Division III Semifinals to Narragansett. (13-5 record)
Key returners: Adeline Areson, Amanda Preston, Dulce Garcia
Key losses: Bri Simono, Sydnee Perreault
Outlook: Despite losing their best player to injury for the entire season, the Lady Titans wound up making the playoffs and remaining a true threat in Division III last winter. They finished in second place and earned a quarterfinal win.
Now, Areson returns and is fully healthy. Rust should not be an issue, as she played the entire soccer season as well. Had Areson been available last winter, it is hard not to think that Toll Gate would have been going toe to toe with crosstown rival Pilgrim in the championship clash.
Garcia was a solid offensive piece in the back while Preston was a steady contributor on each end of the floor. This trio should be arguably the best in the division, while there is enough experience behind it to fill in the gaps.
Simono’s departure does leave a large gap in offensive production, though. Sure, her monster season was in part thanks to Areson’s absence, but that is too big of a gap to ignore. The Titans, though, should be right in the championship mix, if not the favorite, as long as health does not get in the way again.
Last year’s finish: Missed playoffs (5-13 record)
Key returners: Dylan Vale, Carter Clifton, Cole Bigelli, Ian LaPlume
Key losses: Mark Woods, Colby Barker, Mason Link
Outlook: No team in Warwick was bitten by the injury bug harder last season than the Pilgrim boys, as three of their starters were lost for the season in the early going.
Although these injuries took Pilgrim out of playoff contention, it did allow some younger players to earn valuable playing time.
No player benefitted from the extra work more than Vale, who would go on to earn All-League honors at season’s end. He will be the team’s top option this season while Clifton and Bigelli will be leaned on as well. LaPlume also emerged as a true scorer last season, so his progression will also be important to follow.
Although Pilgrim had a forgettable season in 2022, there was plenty of buzz with such a young roster. The Pats will be a dark horse in Division III with a chance to take a big step forward.
Toll Gate Titans
Last year’s finish: Missed playoffs. (3-15 record)
Key returners: Dylan Perreault, Jack Colvin
Key losses: Jackson Cehelsky
Outlook: The Titans have not fully recovered from a few seasons back when their trio of Brandon Scott, Aiden Areson and Kavi Simspon led them to the Elite 8 of the state tournament. Although some talented players have stepped up including Francisco Lopez and Jackson Cehelsky, Toll Gate has still not fielded a deep enough lineup to regain a championship-caliber roster.
The Titans will be rebuilding its culture again this winter, but Dylan Perreault and Jack Colvin will be back to provide a nice leading duo to build on. Each player complemented Cehelsky last season, so those minutes should prove to be beneficial this year.
Which underclassmen will take on bigger roles, though? Toll Gate will need another two, three players to make something happen if it wants to be a playoff team.
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