Recapping winter’s best teams, moments

Posted 3/20/24

It was another busy winter sports season here at Beacon Communications and as always, there was no shortage of stories to report on. The winter season is typically the longest, but this one felt …

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Recapping winter’s best teams, moments


It was another busy winter sports season here at Beacon Communications and as always, there was no shortage of stories to report on. The winter season is typically the longest, but this one felt unusually short. I guess I tend to feel that way at the end of every season.

Anyway, here are some of my biggest takeaways and favorite moments from the past few months:

I’d say the biggest story is the Toll Gate girls basketball team winning its first title in over 40 years.

Adeline Areson returned and put on a season for the ages, putting a bow on it with an epic performance in the title game against Exeter West-Greenwich. The Titans trailed in the final three minutes, but she would hit a pair of 3-pointers and get to the free throw line to carry the team to the win.

Division III always seems to be a slugfest and this year was no different. Between Toll Gate, EWG, Narragansett, North Smithfield, North Providence, the Lincoln School, it really felt like anyone’s to win heading into the postseason. Areson’s star power shined through, Dulce Garcia was a stud in the back court, Mary McNulty, Amanda Preston, Rihanna Tavares finished strong. It all came together and the stars aligned.

I was a bit disappointed in how things played out with defending champion Pilgrim. After losing their top two players from the championship roster in Faith Meade and Gianna Ramos, a step back was expected. Then Amaya Coffie was bitten by the injury bug in the second half of the regular season to make matters worse.

I entered the season hoping for an all-Warwick championship, but Pilgrim just couldn’t catch a break. The Pats have some young players returning next year, so hopefully we’ll see a bounce back season.

On the boys side, it was a rebuilding year for Hendricken, who would fall in the Division I semis and then in the Elite 8 round of the open tournament.

Although, for Hendricken standards, it was a down season, there were plenty of positives for this group to take along with them as they look to grow.

Perhaps the biggest was freshman Michael D’Ambra. As the season wore on, his role and minutes grew and before you knew it, he was one of the best players on the floor in the playoffs. James Caldarella will also be back for one more season, as will Jakob Reyes, Dylan Lynch and Will Mascena. This group will be largely the same next winter.

The one problem will be Classical, who is set to return four of its five starters. The Purple defeated the Hawks in each meeting and won the division and state title. Classical is not going anywhere, and Hendricken will need to make some adjustments to dethrone the new champs.

In Division II, the Johnston boys came up short in their quest to repeat as champs, but still reached the semis and the open state tournament.

I’m not sure if people realize how special this senior class was for this program. Neari Vasquez, Mike Carlino and Cam Walker were all key pieces to last year’s championship run, while Branden and Jayden Testa infused a new element this year to keep them in the hunt.

These seniors helped the Panthers climb to the top of the division and become one of the state’s best programs, while a few of them also got the football team back on track. Next year will be a pretty big rebuild as all five starters will be graduating, but this senior class should be remembered as one of the best that the school has ever seen.

Our hockey teams were led by Hendricken, who won its fourth straight title on Sunday night at the Schneider Arena.

The underdog Broncos came out flying and took a 1-0 lead to send the crowd into a frenzy, but the Hawks answered back with three straight goals to take control. Although Burrillville made it 3-2 heading into the third quarter, the game never really felt in doubt and the Hawks put up three unanswered goals in the final 15 minutes to run away with the win.

Again, talk about an impressive senior class.

Griffin Crain is the state’s best player while guys like Jack LaRose, Nate Marshall, and Devin Exter were studs as well. All they’ve known on the ice is winning and Hendricken now has another historic dynasty for its history books. Hendricken isn’t going anywhere, as it has an incredibly balanced roster in terms of classes. There are plenty of juniors, sophomores and freshmen behind them to keep this run going.

The Hendricken swim team also got back on track with its win at the state championships. After missing out to Barrington the past two seasons, the Hawks enjoyed one of their best campaigns ever and were the clear favorites heading into the big showdown at Brown. They took care of business and locked up the title with multiple events to spare.

The Pilgrim-Toll Gate gymnastics co-op also earned a state championship win, boasting the state’s best duo in Madison Long and Riley Bromage. This is another team that won a championship with a young roster, so this team should be a factor for the foreseeable future.

Next up: spring.

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