Boston High School: Coventry

North Kingstown (R.I.) softball returns to top of hill

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
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North Kingstown High softball coach Adam Laliberte had a recent discussion with the school’s athletic director Howie Hague when Hague posed the following question: “How difficult is it for a team to play North Kingstown knowing it’s only going to score half a run?”

Rhode IslandThis difficult: En route to the Skippers’ first Division I championship since 2002 (and the second overall since the school added fast-pitch softball in 1993), North Kingstown pitchers Rachel Kantor and Kiara Oliver combined for a miniscule 0.46 ERA. And of the 24 runs this duo allowed, only 11 were earned.

Laliberte defied conventional wisdom by utilizing two pitchers in every game instead of deciding on one and asking her to hurl a complete game.

“I did something that most teams never do,” said Laliberte. “I threw both of them in every game. Rachel (a junior) pitched the first four innings and Kiara (a freshman) pitched the last three.

“We had two aces so we used them. Having that two-headed monster really paid off.”

The strategy paid off so well that the Skippers pitchers:

* Never allowed more than two runs in game after April 10.

* Combined for two no-hitters, three one-hitters, two three-hitters, and threw 15 shutouts while the Skippers recorded the first undefeated season in school history, 26-0, with the 26 victories obviously being a school record.

* Kantor and Oliver combined on a four-hitter as the Skippers beat Smithfield, 8-2, in the championship game.

Laliberte had reason to be skeptical about his team’s chances entering the season since it graduated three key players from the 2013 squad that lost in the winners’ bracket finals to Coventry. Pitcher Taylor Butler, who earned First Team All-State and First Team All-Division honors, plus First-Team All-Division selections in center fielder Kristina Rodriguez and First Team All-Division second baseman Liz Finell were all gone.

In addition, All-Division third baseman Devan Neary missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing elbow surgery.

“I thought there was a better chance of our winning the state championship than going undefeated,” said Laliberte. “Fortunately, we got better and better as we went along.

“I broke the schedule into quadrants. Our first four league games were against top teams. I was thinking the best case scenario was we start off at 2-2. At the end, I thought we would be 11-5. The top 16 teams make the playoffs and I hoped to grab one of the top six seeds and go from there. I hoped the team would grow and, at the end of the season, we would be playing our best.”

In retrospect, the Skippers made Laliberte look like a prophet.

Another reason for the Skippers’ success was the fact they outscored opponents by a combined margin of 234-24 – including 74-5 in the fourth and fifth innings. And each of the team’s top nine players batted over .300 with five batting over .400.

Kantor was as much of a factor at the plate as she was on the mound.

“Last year Rachel batted eighth in our lineup and was the designated player so she didn’t play in the field,” said Laliberte. “This year she moved from eighth to second in the lineup and hit .490 and stole 20 bases.

“She’s a bulldog. She’s a kid who wants the ball in her hand and the bat in her hand when the game’s on the line.”

Laliberte also freely admitted something else figured in the Skippers’ run to the state championship: luck.

“When you go undefeated there’s no question you have some luck,” he said. “In our first game with La Salle, we were losing 5-0 in the sixth and we scored five runs in the sixth to tie it. Then, Heather Jackson hit a walk-off homer in the seventh to win it.

“On Mother’s Day, against Mount St. Charles, we were trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seven and with two outs we were down to our last strike. We scored nine runs and won 10-2.

“Believe me,” continued Laliberte. “You can’t make this up.”

But Laliberte already can start making plans for next season considering North Kingstown graduates only one player of note: Jackson, a catcher who was voted the Cox Communications Softball Player of the Year, receiving more votes than any other player who garnered First Team All-State honors.

“Losing Jackson is big,” Laliberte said in an understatement. “But we have very capable personnel returning. Obviously another undefeated season is beyond my wildest dreams.

“Next year we’ll have a senior-laden roster. I have to make them realize it will be harder the second time around. If they buy into it, we’re certainly capable of repeating.”

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

R.I. football playoff matchups coming into focus

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
1:36
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Because of the vagaries of the Interscholastic League, Division II teams got a head start on their Division I, III and IV counterparts when they played their quarterfinal games last weekend.

Rhode IslandThe end result sets up the following semifinal games:
  • Defending Division II Super Bowl champion Cumberland will host St. Raphael on Friday night.
  • West Warwick, who overcame an early-season slump, visits Rogers on Saturday afternoon.

The Division II finals are set for Dec. 8.

Before stepping on the Tucker Field turf for the Clippers’ quarterfinal game against Coventry, coach Chris Skurka recalled three previous clashes with the Oakers each of which basically went down to the final play.

“If you go back to 2009, my first year as head coach here, we lost to them in triple-overtime,” said Skurka.

Cumberland barely held off the Oakers, 17-14, in 2010 and surprisingly blanked Coventry, 10-0, last season.

“Coventry always is extremely well-coached,” said Skurka. “I’ve known that for a long time. They’re sound in the running game and sound defensively. They’ve always been a tough opponent for Cumberland.”

“Tough” went flying out the window in this quarterfinal match because the Clippers “chopped” the Oakers down to size by sailing to a 42-7 victory.

“I didn’t expect a game like this,” Skurka said in a massive understatement. “”You never expect a game to be this one-sided. We’re very happy to be in the semifinals and whatever happens we’ll take it as it comes”

What made this victory particularly rewarding is that it came one week after West Warwick blanked the Clippers, 14-0, in the teams’ regular-season finale.

“We learned from our mistakes last week,” said Skurka. “We still had a couple of turnovers (against Coventry) and we still haven’t played our best game yet.

“I think it’s still inside of us to play even better than we did against Coventry.”

Oh.

“All” the Clippers did against Coventry was amass over 300 yards of total offense with junior tailback Mike Stock accounting for 168 yards on 24 carries.

With the offensive line opening holes big enough to drive a SUV through, quarterback Tyler Calabro gained 64 yards on nine rushes and fullback Joe Fine ran for two scores.

“The offensive line deserves a lot of credit,” said Skurka. “We controlled the line of scrimmage and were able to run to the football and control the clock.

“When you do that and play good defense, you’re going to be in good shape.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 31, 2013
5/31/13
4:12
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What do the boys’ lacrosse teams from La Salle Academy, East Greenwich and Smithfield have in common?

Rhode IslandEach team is undefeated and is in first place in its respective division and, not surprisingly, is the odds-on favorite to capture a state championship.

The Rams (10-0 in Division I and 12-0), who are coached by Colonel Steven McConnell, the Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, boast an offense that’s off the charts.

Through matches of May 21, the Rams have out-scored their opponents by a margin of 202-65.

The story within the story is that La Salle attacks Brady O’Donnell and Joe Manown are the top two scorers in the state regardless of division.

O’Donnell, who’s a senior, has whipped home 56 goals and assisted on 33 while sophomore Manown has scored 49 goals and assisted on 38. What makes Manown’s proficiency all the more noteworthy is the fact he missed most of the 2012 season due to injury.

East Greenwich (13-0 in Division II and 13-2 overall), is riding the backs of 15 seniors who have played an integral role in the Avengers’ offense and defense.

Coach Brian Trapani’s team leads the division with 163 goals and has allowed a stingy total of 43.

Senior Colin Watikun and senior Colin Bernier lead the Avengers with 50 points apiece, Waitkun having scored 39 goals and assisted on 11 with Bernier having fired home 40 goals and assisted on 10.

Smithfield (12-0 in Division III and 12-2 overall) hasn’t lost a division game since the 2010 season.

Coach Joe Renzi’s Sentinels weren’t expected to be a contender since the team graduated 16 players from the 2012 squad. But attacks Brendan Benoit, Nick Gerlach and Matt Walker have led an offense that’s tied with Coventry in goals scored with 139.

MOUND KING
Team sport notwithstanding, the baseball program at Hendricken is heavily reliant on arguably the state’s best pitcher, senior Mike King who’s signed a letter of intent to play at Boston College.

King is a major reason why the Hawks lead Division I-North with a 16-0 record since he’s recorded an 8-1 record replete with 46 strikeouts and a mere six walks in 33 innings.

A right-hander, King didn’t allow his first earned run of the season until May 18 when Hendricken beat La Salle, 4-1. King spaced out six hits while going the distance – again.

King also helps himself at the plate with a batting average that’s hovered around .500 all season.

In a recent 5-1victory over Cranston West, King’s RBI single helped key a five-run first inning.

Another Hawk who’s been wielding a potent bat is John Toppa, grandson of the late Rogers High football coaching legend of the same name.

In a 4-3 victory over St. Raphael, Toppa’s fourth-inning double drove home the game-winning run. And in a 6-1 win over Cumberland, Toppa contributed a single, triple and two RBI.

Elsewhere:

* Central Falls pulled off the upset of the season regardless of division when the Warriors won their first game of the season – 5-2 over Division II-North leader Tolman (12-2). Emmanuel Antigua smacked a two-run single during a four-run fourth inning while Brandon Canuto went the distance for the victory. The loss sliced Tolman’s lead over second-place Scituate (13-3) to one game.

* North Kingstown’s Billy Young improved his record to 4-0 by blanking Toll Gate, 7-0, in a Division II-South game. Young allowed only two hits and fanned 10.

* East Providence’s Colin Costa collected two doubles, a single and five RBI as the Townies (14-1) held onto first place in Division II-Central by beating Mount Pleasant, 9-4. Teammate Colin Grant struck out 17 Kilties en route to the complete-game victory.

CLOSE SHAVE
Never let it be said that East Providence softball coach Rob Traverse isn’t true to his word.

A year ago, the Townies won only three of their first 12 games. Traverse made a “bet” with his players that if they won at least seven games this season he’d shave his head. They did and he did.

East Providence currently is in fifth place in the Division I with a 10-5 record – the Townies’ most impressive victory being a 2-0 blanking of North Kingstown (i.e. it was the Skippers’ first loss).

In that win over the Skippers, EP broke a scoreless tie in the eighth inning on Amy DeCastro’s single and Casey Traverse’s subsequent sacrifice fly.

In other games of note:

* Lincoln High to nobody’s surprise clinched the Division I title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming state tournament by beating La Salle, 4-1. Lindsay Mayer allowed only one run on two hits for the 14-0 Lions.

* Division II-East leader Moses Brown (10-5) blanked Central, 6-0, in a crossover game as Emma Rantanen tossed a one-hitter – losing her bid for a no-hitter when Dianna Torres singled with two outs in the sixth.

ENTERING THE HALL
Even though Central Falls is the smallest city in the state, its high school has produced a host of outstanding athletes.

Nine will be inducted into the Central Falls Athletic Hall of Fame on October 11: former boys’ basketball coach Ed McVeigh plus athletes Albert Cardosa, Jeff Desautel, James Dougan, Brian Goodhart, Kevin Guindon, Carmen Pizarro, Russell Standring, Ken Vaudreuil and Kinga Dobrzychi-Zuromski.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
4:08
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At the risk of using a culinary metaphor, the regular season comprised the appetizer for boys’ basketball.

Rhode IslandThe soup and salad comprised the division tournaments. And the entrée is what 16 teams have been anxiously waiting to devour.

After Hope, Cumberland and North Smithfield annexed the Division I, II and III tournament championships, respectively, they’ll join 13 other teams for the third year that the Interscholastic League has held a tournament to determine the overall state champion.

The 16 teams are placed in four regions and seeded according to the final Power Point standings for the first round which tipped off Wednesday night:

Region 1: No. 16 West Warwick (17-8) vs. No. 1 Classical (17-5); No. 9 North Providence (16-5) vs. No. 8 Westerly (17-5).

Region 2: No. 16 Hendricken (11-10) vs. No. 2 La Salle (16-6); No. 10 Coventry (13-10) vs. No. 7 Hope (14-12).

Region 3: No. 14 Cranston West (14-9) vs. No. 3 North Kingstown (20-3); No. 11 Barrington (17-7) vs. No. 6 Mount Pleasant (13-8).

Region 4: No. 13 Prout (15-8) vs. No. 4 Cumberland (22-3); No. 12 Shea (16-8) vs. No. 5 North Smithfield (24-0).

How the three division champions reached their destination is an interesting story in each case.

Hope, for example, only was seeded eighth in the Division I Tournament. Yet the blue Wave captured their first championship since 1994 by beating fifth-seeded Coventry, 65-62 in the semifinals and upsetting third-seeded Classical, 69-65, in the finals.

Manny Kargbo scored a game-high 32 points (including 16-of-18 free throws) in the win over the Oakers while Ben Vezele posted a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.

The Purple, who averaged 70 points per game during the regular season, connected on only 18.7 percent (3-for-16) of their 3-point shots against the Hawks and needed a free throw from Kealen Ives with eight seconds left in regulation to break a 44-44 tie and earn a 45-44 victory in the other semifinal.

Ives led Classical with 20 points.

Without question the parents of the Cumberland players weren’t even born the last time the Clippers won a state title – 1936 when the school annexed the former Class C crown.

Do the math and that championship ended a 77-year drought.

A late 16-4 run enabled Cumberland to build an 11-point lead over the Raiders and eased the pressure going down the stretch.

Dylan Boisclair led Cumberland with 22 points while Tom Lazarus chipped in with 21, including the last nine from the charity stripe.

All North Smithfield did en route to the D-III championship was post the best record (24-0) in school history.

The Northmen beat East Greenwich, 66-55, in the finals, which enabled them to become the first team since Classical in 2008 to go undefeated and win a division title.

North Smithfield’s Cody L’Heureux arguably played a game he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

Not only did he score a game-high 31 points, but he notched his 1,000th career point in the process on one of his five treys.

DOUBLE DRIBBLES

In other games of note prior to the division tournaments:
  • Hope’s Kargbo scored his 1,000th career point during a 52-51 victory over Cranston East, which clinched a playoff berth. Kargbo finished with 14 points and an assist on Vezele’s game-winning basket.
  • Vezele recorded a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds (to go with five blocked shots) as Hope beat East Providence, 66-51, in a Division I preliminary round game.
  • L’Heureux delivered a premonition of things to come when he scored 27 points, including six treys, as North Smithfield whipped Davies, 79-53.
DOBSON IN ELITE COMPANY

Westerly’s Hannah Dobson moved into second place on the school’s all-time scoring list (boys and girls) as the Bulldogs belted Coyle-Cassidy, 48-31 in a non-league game.

Dobson now has 1,514 career points.

Scituate (14-2) clinched first place in Division II-North by beating Johnston, 52-40, with Sadie Ross contributing a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds).

HAWKS LEAD THE PACK

Hendricken (13-2-1) remained atop the standings in the Division I Cimini Division by beating Cranston West, 5-2.

Three was the magic number in that game because Matt Creamer recorded a hat trick while Ed Markowski was credited with three assists.

Mount St. Charles (13-3-0) remained right behind Hendricken thanks to a 5-1 win over Barrington. Brian Belisle played a superb game by scoring two goals and assisting on the other three.

HENDRICKEN WRESTLERS THE BEST

Maybe what Hendricken’s wrestling team did on Feb.14 should have been an indication of things to come.

Coach Kevin Hennessey’s team handed Cumberland its first dual-meet loss in five years by coasting to a 47-9 victory, improving the Hawks’ record to 15-0.

Then, in the state championships, Hendricken won its first title since 2004 even though it only had one boy win an individual crown – Jason Davol at 106 pounds.

Hendricken amassed 168 points while Exeter/West Greenwich and Johnston tied for second with 133.5 points each.

The key for Hendricken was its ability to score points in the “wrestle-backs.”

Nicholas Celico, Rob Lanni, Anthony DiMauro, Chris Barone and Dallas Sauer lost in the quarterfinals but maintained their composure and annexed victories that earned them third-place finishes.

In other matches of note:
  • Warwick Vets’ John Alteri won his third state title by blanking Cumberland’s Cody Beaudette, 2-0, at 113 pounds.
  • Alteri’s teammate, Nathaniel Colicci, defended his 126-pound state title by beating Moses Brown’s Andrew Howard. The bout was tied at 2-2 after three regulation periods and three overtime sessions. The tiebreaker was Colicci’s ability to hold Howard for 30 seconds.
  • While the 126-pound bout was the longest of the day, the 138-pound final was the shortest since defending champion Christian LaBrie of Exeter/West Greenwich pinned Cumberland’s Jon Mancini in 24 seconds.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame, which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
3:57
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The highest magnitude on the Richter scale which is used to measure earthquakes is 10.

Rhode IslandThe upset the Coventry boys’ hockey team sprung on perennial Division I state champion Mount St. Charles registered 12.

Or to put it another way, the Oakers’ 2-0 victory on Jan. 19 was the first over the Mount in the 45-year history of boys’ hockey at the Kent County School.

In addition, it was the first time a Bill Belisle-coached Mount team lost to Coventry in the 37 years he’s been the Mounties coach.

The game was scoreless entering the third period when Coventry’s Jacob Harrington scored at 8:35 for what proved to be the game-winner and Steve Schmitt stopped 26 shots for his second shutout of the season.

Coventry (6-5 in Division I) followed up that win over Mount with a 4-1 victory over Cranston West.

The game was tied 1-1 entering the third period when Michael Peola scored the game-winner and Schmitt made 16 saves.

Mount (7-2-0) did rebound from that loss to Coventry by beating Hendricken, 3-1, when Vincent Pearl and Pat Holmes scored within a span of 43 seconds in the middle period, and Burrillville 8-0 with Pearl, Tyler Scroggins and Keith Phaneuf scoring two goals apiece.

But Coventry’s victory means the playoffs could be more interesting than initially expected.

TWO BETTER THAN ONE
Arguably one of the better stories during the boys’ hockey season has been that “written” by the new co-op team with players from West Warwick and Exeter/West Greenwich.

Entering this week the Wizards/Scarlet Knights led Division III with a 13-0 record and had outscored opponents by a 107-17 margin.

Key players for this team are forwards Tony Rel and Brett Coski while goaltenders Ivan Forcier and freshman Jared Olson have been virtually impenetrable.

HAWKS MIS-FIRING
Few schools will shed tears for the Hendricken boys’ basketball team given the fact the Hawks have dominated Division I over the last couple of decades.

But the current team resembles past teams in name only.

Through games of January 28, Hendricken is 6-5 in Division I-South primarily because of a lack of scoring.

When the Hawks crack the 60-point barrier it’s almost a reason to celebrate.

One reason why the Hawks have had difficulty mustering an offense is that Lee Messier, who last season was the team’s best outside shooter, transferred to the Tilton School in New Hampshire.

In other recent games of note:
  • Classical’s Terrill Toe scored his 1,000th career point during a 100-93 victory over intra-city rival Mount Pleasant in a game that lasted four overtimes. Toe finished with 30 points including six three-point shots.
  • Ismael Batista emulated Toe by notching his 1,000th career point during a 71-59 victory over Woonsocket. Batista scored 21 points including 7-for-7 at the free throw line.
  • St. Raphael’s Charles Correa poured in 40 points – 24 coming on three-pointers – as the Saints handed Division I-South leader North Kingstown (12-1) its first loss of the season.
  • Alan Strick only scored 11 points. But three came on a buzzer-beating trey that enabled North Smithfield to tie Middletown and force overtime. Then, Dan Jordan sank a free throw with 20 seconds left in the extra session to give the Northmen a 57-56 victory for the latter’s first Division III loss of the season.
LA SALLE’s DUNPHY TORCHES NETS
La Salle Academy’s Priscilla Dunphy is coming off two games that will be embedded in her memory bank for years to come.

After Barrington handed the two-time defending state champion Rams (12-1) their first Division I loss since the 2010-11 season by a 51-41 score (Caitlyn Nolan led the Eagles with 15 points), La Salle rebounded by whipping Exeter/West Greenwich, 57-37, and Westerly, 49-43.

Dunphy scored 22 points in the win over the Scarlet Knights. But against Westerly, Dunphy scored 13 points – including the 1000th of her career.

Previously, Westerly (11-2 in I-South), beat Barrington, 44-38, with Emily Dobson notching 16 points.

Elsewhere:
  • Senior Maggie Salomone scored her 1,000th career point as Narragansett beat East Providence, 63-49. Salomone finished the game with 21 points.
  • St. Patrick Academy, a small, all-girls school in Providence, was forced to cancel the rest of its first Interscholastic League season due to a series of injuries. Director of Athletics Charles Toste stated the school plans to revive the sport next season – one reason being it will add the 12th grade. Currently, the school only enrolls girls from grades nine through 11.
PASSAGES
Andy McGowan, the long-time director of athletics for the Warwick public school system passed away on January 23. McGowan, who assumed his position in 1968, was awarded the first Rhode Island Athletic Director of the Year Award in 1973.

He was voted into the Manhattan College Hall of Fame (his alma mater), the Rhode Island School Athletic Administrator’s Hall of Fame and both the Hendricken and La Salle Halls of Fame. McGowan became Hendricken’s Director of Guidance in the 1970s.

A FIRST FOR COVENTRY
Coventry High recently announced its first class for the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

The class includes Brian McGovern (who set state basketball scoring records in the early 1990s), wrestling coach icon Dick Magarian, 20-year hockey coach George Egan, Art Fiori (the school’s first A.D.), former football coach Bob Peltier; and Walter Clarke, for whom the school’s athletic complex is named.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
5:47
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In the history of boys’ basketball at North Kingstown, the Skippers have won only two state championships – each of which occurred while the team was playing in Division II (1985 and 1990).

Rhode IslandSo far this season, head coach Aaron Thomas’ team has its sights set on a loftier goal: the Division I state title.

Through games of Jan. 15, North Kingstown was the only undefeated team (8-0) in each of the state’s three divisions that comprise Division I.

The Skippers’ eighth victory came at the expense of Cranston West who was throttled 61-43, with Owen Heath scoring a game-high 29 points.

Coventry (7-1) was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten when Hendricken chopped down the Oakers, 52-45, with Garfield Coustard scoring 16 points.

Those results set up an “interesting” game for Jan. 17 when North Kingstown hosts Coventry with first place on the line in I-South.

But lest the Skippers become overconfident about their early-season success, Thomas is quick to remind them of what transpired in recent trips to the state tournament.

The Skippers were 16-2 last season but lost to Rogers in the quarterfinals.

In 2011, they were eliminated in the preliminary round. And in 2010, they were beaten by Hendricken in the state championship game.

MARATHON
And you thought the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks seemingly played forever in last weekend’s NFL playoff game.

Mount Pleasant and Classical staged a high school basketball version of the Falcons-Seahawks game on January 15 when the Kilties outlasted the Purple 100-94 in four – count them four – overtimes.

Zdahmond Dale (33) and Jovel Beckford (25) accounted for just over 50 percent of Mount Pleasant’s offense, as did Terrill Toe (30) and Kealen Ives (29) for Classical.

In the game prior to the one against Classical, Beckford lit up East Providence for 37 points – 30 coming on 10 three-point shots – as Mount Pleasant beat the Townies, 61-55.

Elsewhere:
  • Cumberland moved into a first-place tie with North Providence in Division II-North by whipping II-South leader Westerly, 69-53. Dylan Boisclair (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Tom Lazaras (10 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles for Cumberland (7-2) while the Bulldogs fell to 8-1.
  • Middletown remained atop the Division III-East standings by belting Toll Gate, 60-47. Justin Bailey (15 points) led a quartet of Islanders in double figures.
  • North Smithfield (8-0), who plays in III-North, is the only other undefeated Division III team in the state.
CAVALIERS SEEK REPEAT
Juanita Sanchez cruised through an undefeated season in 2011-12 and captured the first Division III girls’ basketball championship in school history.

With approximately one-third of the season in the books, the Cavaliers again appear to be the team to beat.

Two victories over intra-city rivals enhanced that status as the Cavaliers moved into a first-place tie (6-0) with Middletown.

Freshman Elfeda Hoff scored 12 points, snared seven rebounds and dished off seven assists in barely 16 minutes of playing time as the Cavaliers routed Hope, 44-24.

Previously, in a game against another team that was undefeated at the time, Juanita Sanchez beat Central, 44-32, with Hoff scoring 23 points and adding five steals. Teammate Leoni Taylor contributed a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds).

In other games of note:
  • St. Raphael Academy (4-0) moved into sole possession of first place in Division II-Central after outing previously undefeated Moses Brown, 63-35. Becca Gonzalez’s name was all over the stat sheet because besides recording a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) she was credited with five steals and four assists.
  • Josie Chaves buried the game-winning basket with 15 seconds left in regulation to give Rogers a 50-47 victory over East Providence in a Division II-East game that featured two undefeated team. Liz Jackson added 17 points for the Vikings (4-0) while Mary Monagle scored a career-high 20 points for the Townies (3-1).
OAKERS HAVE HIGH HOPES
Coventry’s boys’ hockey team commenced the current season with consecutive Division II state championships on its resume – and five overall titles.

Now, because of a new playoff format adopted by the Interscholastic League, the Oakers could get a shot at dethroning the big kids on the block – Mount St. Charles, La Salle, Hendricken, etc.

A Division I Super Four Tournament will be held for the first time this season with the four slots going to the four teams that have compiled the most points (i.e. power points) in the combined standings of Mount, La Salle and Hendricken in the Division I-Cimini subdivision plus the five public schools in the Division I-Eccleston subdivision.

Through games of January 14, the Oakers were tied for third with Mount in the combined standings with 3.6 power points.

Hendricken was at the top of the pile with 8.8 while La Salle was second with 5.4.

The 3-3 Oakers boast two of the top scoring leaders in the state in Mike Pesola and Zach Woods.

Hendricken remained undefeated (6-0-0) by beating Barrington, 6-3, with Andrew Fera notching a hat trick, and by blanking Mount, 4-0, as Mitchell Proulx made 44 saves which complemented Fera’s two-goal performance.

HAWKS LEAD THE WAY
Hendricken, which stunned high school football fans by upsetting highly-favored La Salle in the Division I Super Bowl, was rewarded with four selections on the All-State Football First Team: tight end Mario McClain, two-way lineman Nick DiCiantis, linebacker Jarrid Witherspoon’ and linebacker Mario Delvecchio.

Division II Super Bowl champ Cumberland landed cornerback/wide receiver Mitch Baxter and two-way end Trent Vasey; Division III bowl champ Middletown placed running back Randy Butler and offensive guard Mitch Sullivan on the first team; Division IV champ Mount Pleasant was represented by running back Randolph Zleh.

The remainder of the First Team was comprised on Cranston East’s Marven Beauvais (wide receiver), E.J. Isom (two-way back) and Marquem Monroe (two-way back); St. Raphael’s Jason Colon (two-way tackle); La Salle’s Mitch DaSilva (wide receiver), Josh Morris (La Salle) and Anthony Francis (quarterback); Cranston West’s Anthony St. Laurent (two-way lineman); Portsmouth’s Matt Greenman (linebacker-wide receiver), Bobby Chavous (quarterback); and Austin Szczepniak (running back); Johnston’s Evan Hopson (punter); Shea’s Baboucarr Lemon (place kicker); Chariho’s Austin McQuaide (running back); Tolman’s Mamour Samb (running back); and East Greenwich’s Kyle Palmer (defensive back).

PASSAGES
The state lost one of its most respected and amiable coaches with the passing of Burrillville’s Wilfred “Skee” Carter.

Carter, 66, coached baseball at his high school alma mater for 22 years and guided the Broncos to six state tournaments plus the 2007 Division II championship.

Between the middle school and high school, he also coached cross country for 22 years.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

January, 3, 2013
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Maybe Mount St. Charles will win a record 43rd state boys’ hockey championship. After all, the Mount returns 13 players from last season’s team that posted a 21-8-0 overall record and lost in a pulsating, best-of-three finals to Bishop Hendricken.

Rhode IslandBut the Mounties were unable to win their own Holiday Face-Off Tournament.

In fact, the Mount didn’t even reach the finals of this season’s tournament because it was eliminated in the semifinals, 6-5, by Delbarton School of Morristown, N.J.

The Green Wave swamped the Mount by scoring four first period goals, including a hat trick by John Balocco, which trumped a two-goal, two-assist performance by Dan Glod.

But in the finals, Fairfield Prep (Conn.) edged Delbarton, 4-3, on Matt Wikman’s goal at 5:50 of a second overtime period.

LaSalle College finished third by blanking La Salle Academy, 5-0, with Ryan Williams also recording a hat trick.

The only Rhode Island team to finish in the top five was Hendricken, as the Hawks beat Bishop Guertin (N.H.), 3-1, with Matt Creamer (the son of head coach Jim Creamer) scoring one goal and assisting on another.

TIGERS CRAWL INTO THE NIGHT
While Mount St. Charles made news (albeit of a negative type) on the ice, Tolman also made news that essentially was disturbing.

Tolman, which has won six Division III state championships, will be dropping boys’ hockey after this season because, quite simply, it’s going to lack enough players.

The current team dresses only 13 players – eight of whom are seniors. And for the second season in a row, there are zero freshmen on the team which also is minus any sophomores.

Nevertheless, the Tigers are 6-1-1 in their first eight games.

Ironically, Tolman’s cross-town rival in Pawtucket, Shea, dropped hockey in 1987 – after winning its only then-Met C title – because of a lack of players.

DRIBBLING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS
Like most states, Rhode Island featured numerous holiday basketball tournaments.

Following are the results of the more prominent ones:
  • Ben Bradley poured in 27 points as Cumberland beat Woonsocket, 68-58, in the finals of the long-standing Cumberland/Lincoln Boys & Girls Club Holiday Tournament. Bradley, who was voted MVP honors, scored 13 points and dished out eight assists as the Clippers beat Tolman, 62-46, in the semifinals. The Villa Novans advanced to the finals by beating Lincoln, 53-46, with Nicholas Jusczszyn scoring 20 points.
  • Kody Greenhalgh clinched MVP honors after scoring a game-high 23 points to lead West Warwick to a 67-57 victory over Scituate in the finals of the West Warwick Holiday Tournament.
  • Justin Pratt keyed a rally that saw North Kingstown overcome a double-digit deficit and defeat Shea, 74-63, in the Barrington Boosters Holiday Tournament championship game. Pratt scored 26 points – 18 coming on six 3-point shots.
  • Mackenzie Ramsay and Sarah LaMountain scored five points apiece in overtime and West Warwick converted five free throws in the final moments of regulation as the Wizards beat Coventry, 68-60, in the Coventry Credit Union Classic title game. Coventry’s Sarah McGrath forced the extra session when she drained a 3-point shot with seven seconds left in regulation.
  • Juanita Sanchez boasted the MVP in Elfreda Hoff as it captured the City of Providence Holiday Tournament by outlasting Classical, 37-25, in the finals. Hoff scored 31 of her team’s points against the Purple after notching 25 in a 53-19 romp over Hope in the semifinals.
  • Just before the holidays, Prout’s Eric Ramelka surpassed the 1000-point mark for his career as the Crusaders beat Lincoln, 61-46.
EAGLES, PURPLE REIGN
Division I champion Barrington and Division II champ Classical combined to place a total of five players on the First Team All-State Soccer Team.

Eagles earning First Team honors were keeper Andrew Jones (who also was named an All-American); midfielder Christian Egglin; and fullback Carson Hall.

Classical was represented by midfielder Asa Sohn (he played on three consecutive state championship teams, two in Division III and in Division II last season) and forward Julio Jimenez (he led all Interscholastic League players with 27 goals and 11 assists for a total of 38 points).

Rounding out the first team were midfielder Dan Apajee and fullback Greg Forgue from La Salle; forward Christian Rodriguez (21 goals) and midfielder Stiven Montiero from Central Falls; midfielder Brandon Jumoas and keeper Justus Heinstchel Von Heinegg from Portsmouth.

SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE
La Salle Academy’s All-Everything running back Josh Morris has announced he’ll be attending Brown University next fall.

Morris, who led the Rams to the Division I regular-season title, rushed for 2,725 yards and 36 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons.

Hendricken’s Mike King will play his baseball at Boston College, after earning Second Team All-State honors last spring for Division I state champ Hendricken.

Alex Perreault, a First Team All-State selection last spring in lacrosse for Hendricken, opted for perennial power Johns Hopkins.

St. Raphael Academy’s Nicholas Karalekas, who received the Carl Yastrzemski Scholarship (a four-year scholarship endowed by the Red Sox Hall of Famer), will enroll at Merrimack College and play baseball.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

October, 24, 2012
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La Salle Academy moved into sole possession of first place in Division I without having to score a single point or make any tackles.

Rhode IslandInstead, the Rams might be inclined to send a “thank you” note to Portsmouth.

The Patriots pulled off the upset of the season in the state’s top division by belting previously undefeated and defending state champion Hendricken, 39-14, on Oct. 20.

As a result, the Rams (4-0) are the division’s only undefeated team while Hendricken (5-1) fell to second followed by Portsmouth (4-1) and Cranston East (3-1).

Obviously, if the Rams run the table they’ll earn the No. 1 seed in the Division I Tournament (the top four teams qualify for post-season play).

Portsmouth led by a tenuous 9-7 margin at halftime but erupted for 30 points in the third quarter.

Quarterback Bob Chavous was a one-man wrecking crew as he passed the Hawks dizzy by completing 14-of-20 passes for two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Matt Sewall led Portsmouth receivers with six receptions for 55 yards.

Chavous also led the Patriots ground game. He carried the ball 18 times for 170 yards and one touchdown.

The loss took some of the luster off Hendricken’s 21-14 victory over Cranston East on October 12.

Quarterback Patrick Gill snapped a 14-14 tie when he scored on a one-yard run with 2:02 left on the clock.

Cranston East hosts Hendricken on Friday night in what will be the key game in Division I this week.

ISLANDERS “STRAND” QUAKERS
In the previous six years Middletown has played in three Division IV Super Bowls (winning in 2006) and two Division III bowls (winning in 2010) – including 2011 when it was knocked off by Aquidneck Island rival Rogers.

The Islanders remained in contention for the top seed in the Division III Tournament by defeating Moses Brown, 35-13.

Connor Russ paced the Islanders (6-0) by scoring on runs of 18, 21 and 22 yards and combined with Randy Butler for just over 200 yards on the ground.

East Greenwich (4-0) is in second place – which means when the Avengers host the Islanders on November 12, first place and the top seed could (should?) be at stake.

PETERSON UNSTOPPABLE
Ponaganset (2-3) is in a five-team traffic jam for one of the last two playoff berths in Division III.

If the Chieftains qualify for the playoffs, it will be due in large part to the play of running back Scott Peterson.

Over his last two games, Peterson has been virtually unstoppable.

Peterson carried the ball 31 times for 269 yards and scored each of Ponaganset’s four touchdowns during a 27-0 blanking of Classical.

The previous week, in a 24-12 non-league victory over Toll Gate, Peterson shredded the Titans defense for 322 yards and five touchdowns – each of which was a school record.

KILTIES STATE THEIR CASE
Even though this is the campaign season, Mount Pleasant doesn’t need to take out an ad in local newspapers to state its case as perhaps the best team in Division IV.

The Kilties did their talking on a soggy field last weekend when they beat Smithfield, 35-6.

As a result, Mount Pleasant (5-0) is alone in first place, a half-game ahead of Hope (5-1).

The Kilties visit the Blue Wave on November 10 and can clinch the top seed for the playoffs with a victory.

Sophomore Stephen Young slogged his way to scoring runs of five and 67 yards while Joe Putu returned an interception 50 yards on the final play of the third quarter which set up a six-yard touchdown run by Montrell Hopper that put the game out of reach.

COMING UP ACES
The R.I.I.L. girls’ tennis season came to an end over the weekend when the state singles title plus three team championships were decided.

East Greenwich’s Alexsandra Drljaca dropped the first set to Smithfield’s Jenna LaBarre but rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory in the singles finals – which made her the first Avenger female to win a state singles title.

Ironically, Drljaca had defeated LaBarre in three sets during a regular-season match.

La Salle put the finishing touches on an undefeated season (14-0) by blanking Mount St. Charles, 4-0, for the Division I team title.

The Rams, who now have captured four state titles, received three of their four points from their doubles teams: Emily Carranza and Caroline Dunn; Annie Venditti and Natalie Pitocco; and Briana Hanson and Caitlin Wrag.

Amanda Pitocco accounted for the lone singles point.

Portsmouth emulated La Salle by also wrapping up an undefeated season (14-0) by beating Classical, 4-0, in the Division II finals.

Julia Harrigan and Kathryn Harper prevailed in singles while the doubles teams of Taylor MacLeod and Caroline Farrow plus Jamie Hole and Paige Colman annexed the other two points.

Mount Hope rebounded from a 4-8 season in 2011 to capture the Division III team title, edging previously undefeated Coventry 4-3 in the finals.

With the match tied at 3-3, juniors Marisa Silva and Destinee DeSousa captured a three-set match at No. 1 doubles.

PASSAGES
Rhode Island lost one of its most ardent advocates for high school sports with the passing on October 24 of Pete Connell in his hometown of Smithfield.

For over two decades while writing for either The Observer or The Valley Breeze, Connell was a fixture at games involving teams in the western and northern parts of the state.

Connell was equally as respected as a high school baseball umpire.

As a testament to Connell, the entire Smithfield High boys’ soccer team paid their respects at his wake.

THE AXE FALLS
What had been on the drawing board became fact when East Providence’s state-appointed Budget Commission passed a $154-million budget that, among other things, eliminated sports at the city’s two middle schools.

At the moment, this is just a one-year cut. But that caveat notwithstanding, the loss of middle school sports should have a negative impact on East Providence High’s varsity sports (especially football, basketball and baseball), which will now be deprived of their feeder programs.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

October, 10, 2012
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Cranston East last won a Division I Super Bowl in 1987 – which, of course, was well before the players on the current team were born.

Rhode IslandBut the Thunderbolt have an opportunity to prove they’re a legitimate contender this season when they play at defending Division I Super Bowl champion Hendricken on October12.

Coach Tom Centore’s team set the stage for this matchup of undefeated teams when it waxed East Providence, 42-20, on Oct. 5. Quarterback Alex Corvese threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers – all in the first half – as the ‘Bolt bolted to a 28-7 lead. Covese’s longest strike was a 46-yarder to Marquem Monroe. Nicholas Ferry caught a 28-yard TD pass just before halftime and, in the third quarter, returned a punt 35 yards for a score that broke the game open.

Hendricken (4-0) and La Salle (4-0) are tied for the division lead, but Cranston East (3-0) is only a half-game back and is 5-0 overall.

The Hawks tuned up for the ‘Bolt by blanking Cranston West, 36-0, as quarterback Pat Gill ran for three scores passed for a fourth. In its previous game, the Hawks whipped Tolman, 28-7, converting three turnovers into three touchdowns in the process. Gill scored on a one-yard run and also connected with Marco DelVecchio on a 52-yard scoring bomb.

La Salle remained tied with Hendricken by whipping winless South Kingstown, 39-14, as quarterback Anthony Francis threw touchdown passes of 21 and 63 yards to Keon Wilson.

PANTHERS ON THE PROWL
Johnston maintained its status as the only undefeated team (4-0) in Division II-A by mauling Coventry, 26-6.

The final score was representative of how explosive the Panthers have been this season. In those four league games, they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 154-18.

Johnston built a 14-0 lead with five minutes left in the first half, thanks to a six-yard run by Brenden Pappas and a two-yard run by Joe Santilli.

WIZARDS DISAPPEAR – TEMPORARILY
West Warwick was knocked from the ranks of the undefeated in Division II-B when it was routed, 42-14, by Shea on September 28. Dennis Lloyd paced the Raiders with three touchdowns while Tyshon Ashe added a pair.

Cumberland, who blitzed North Kingstown 41-6, moved into sole possession of first place with a 4-0 record. Quarterback Brendan Guerin led the Clippers by passing for 132 yards and three scores.

The Wizards (3-1) rebounded the following week as they pasted Pilgrim, 41-6, with Austin Paygal running for four scores – including one that covered 66 yards.

AROUND THE GRIDIRON
Elsewhere, East Greenwich toppled previously-undefeated Moses Brown, 39-21, in Division III action. Carney Crawford paced the Avengers (4-0) with 230 rushing yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Andrew Minor passed for 117 yards and three scores.

Middletown (3-0) remained a half-game behind the Avengers thanks to a 48-20 victory over Tiverton. The Islanders’ Randy Butler had a career game as he carried the ball 12 times for 149 yards and a touchdown and also returned a kickoff 70 yards for another score.

Overall, Middletown amassed 428 yards of total offense against the Tigers. Middletown gave a premonition of things to come when it belted Ponaganset, 48-7, in its previous game. Butler also was a force in that game since he scored on a 31-yard run and caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Justin Sellers.

In other games of note:
* Mount Hope (2-2) evened its record in Division II-A by beating Woonsocket, 26-7, with Jesse Raiola rushing for 125 yards and three scores.

* Central Falls captured its first Division IV victory of the season by blanking Scituate, 42-0. Quarterback Brandon Canuto threw four touchdown passes – three to Odair Semedo.

* Classical also won its first league game, in Division III, by holding off Burrillville, 16-14. Amilcar Burganza provided what proved to be the winning score when he returned an interception 50 yards in the fourth quarter.

MILESTONE
Long-time Portsmouth boys’ soccer coach Mike Stinton recently annexed his 200th career victory as the Patriots blanked South Kingstown, 1-0. Stinton was appointed Portsmouth’s head coach in 1989.

Then, the following week, the Patriots (5-3-0) won their fifth consecutive Division I game, 5-1 over Tolman as Brendan Jumoas scored two goals and assisted on two.

RUNNING WILD
The East Greenwich boys’ cross-country team ventured north and captured the team title in the Woods Trail Run Invitational in Thetford, Vt.

The Avengers amassed 107 points – 29 better than second-place South Burlington (Vt.) High. Ben Fazio (6th), Garrett Scanlon (18th), Scott Kulm (23rd), Nat Waddell (26th) and Tom Sommer (34th) accounted for the Avengers’ scoring.

NO “MIDDLE” GROUND
What had been rumored is on the verge of becoming fact.

East Providence, which had accumulated a $7-million budget deficit and has been operating under a state-appointed Budget Commission, will eliminate middle school sports as part of a proposed plan to help get the city out of the red. Football, basketball and baseball, which have long served as successful feeder programs for East Providence High, would be the primary sports on the chopping block if the overall proposal is approved by November 1.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

June, 27, 2012
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In baseball, batting .300 is indicative of success. But what Hendricken has accomplished would short-circuit any computer.

Rhode IslandCoach Ed Holloway’s Hawks are “batting” .700 over the last 10 years because they captured their seventh Division I state championship over that span.

Altogether, Hendricken has won 17 state titles since 1977.

Hendricken almost made it look easy as it swept South Kingstown 12-2 (the game was called after five innings because of the Interscholastic League’s mercy rule) and 5-0 in the best-of-three finals.

Senior right-hander Tom Pannone, who’s signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Miami, went the distance on a one-hitter in the clincher – striking out 13 Rebels in the process.

The Hawks, who finished with a 23-2 overall record, never gave the Rebels a chance in Game 1 by building a 6-0 lead after three innings.

Bobby Indeglia, another senior, improved to 9-0 by allowing two runs on four hits (Hendricken did commit two errors).

Pannone, who plays the outfield when he isn’t pitching, singled and homered while junior Matt Murphy added three hits and five RBI.

PANTHERS MAUL CRUSADERS
Johnston won the 2011 Division II state title with a team that was loaded with seniors.

Understandably, the Panthers weren’t expected to repeat this season given the plethora of underclassmen on coach Steve DeMeo’s team.

Wrong! Johnston swept Prout 11-1 (in another mercy rule game) and 7-1 in the best-of-three finals.

Panther pitching dominated the series as Johnston finished with a 24-2 overall record.

Glen Bianchi allowed one run on one hit over six innings in Game 1 while James Picchi allowed one run on two hits while going the distance in Game 2. Picchi faced just two batters over the minimum and needed a mere 76 pitches to complete his assignment.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

June, 18, 2012
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Over the years, La Salle Academy has won enough state championship trophies to fill a vault at Fort Knox.

Rhode IslandNow the school must make room for one that’s eluded it for years: a state championship trophy for boys’ lacrosse.

The Rams applied an exclamation point to an undefeated (14-0) season by beating Moses Brown School, 9-7, in the finals -- after losing in the finals each of the previous two seasons.

The championship also ended four years of frustration because coach Steve O’Donnell’s team had compiled the best regular-season record (54-3) during that span but had zero to show for its efforts.

What made this championship game even more noteworthy was the fact that underclassmen led the way over the Quakers (9-6).

Sophomore Peter DeSimone, who was voted the game’s MVP, scored three goals and assisted on three; junior Brady O’Donnell fired in three goals including his team’s last two which proved to be huge in the final outcome; and sophomore goalie Matt Andrews made eight saves in the crucial fourth quarter.

In other boys’ finals:

*At the risk of using a hockey metaphor, East Greenwich’s Ethan Zink scored a “pure” hat trick as the Avengers beat South Kingstown, 10-4, for the Division II championship. The Avengers (19-1) were leading by a slim 3-2 margin in the last minute of the second quarter when Zink scored for a 4-2 halftime lead. Then, Zink tallied the first two goals of the third quarter and the Avengers went on to clinch their second consecutive state title. EG goalie John Trutza came up big in net by making 19 saves.

*Smithfield senior Ryan Benoit made sure he would end his career in style by scoring three goals and assisting on another as the Sentinels whipped Narragansett, 12-6, for the Division III championship. Benoit’s younger brother, Ryan contributed three goals and two assists to the triumph.

QUAKER GIRLS “STICK” BARRINGTON
What the Moses Brown boys were unable to accomplish, the Quaker girls did, capturing a Division I lacrosse championship.

Coach Jeanne Carhart’s team completed an 18-1 season by defeating Barrington, 14-10, with senior Hannah Saris scoring two goals and assisting on five.

But what Saris meant to the Quakers’ offense so did goalie Jamie Marshall to the defense. The sophomore stopped 15 Eagles shots and earned the game’s MVP award.

Saris finished the season with 93 goals and 56 assists.

In the Division II championship game, junior middie Chloe Andrew scored four goals and assisted on three as Cumberland edged defending state champion Tiverton, 12-10.

The championship was the second in school history for the 17-1 Clippers.

OFF TO McCOY STADIUM
Hendricken and South Kingstown will make the much-anticipated bus ride to McCoy Stadium – home of the Pawtucket Red Sox – for the best-of-three Division I state baseball championship.

The Hawks punched their ticket to the finals by sweeping Coventry by identical scores of 3-2 (although the second game lasted 10 innings).

Tom Pannone, a senior pitcher/outfielder who last week was selected in the 33rd round by the Chicago Cubs, went the distance on a five-hitter and belted a solo homer in Game 1.

Then, in the clincher, Rob Hendry lined a one-out single in the top of the 10th which snapped a 2-2 tie.

Jake Newberry earned the victory by virtue of pitching three innings of scoreless relief.

Cumberland and South Kingstown split the first two games of their best-of-three semifinal series.

The Rebels won the opener, 4-3, but Cumberland evened the series with a 1-0 victory in Game 2 as Justin Patrick went the distance on a three-hitter.

The third and deciding game was over almost before it started because South Kingstown romped, 16-1. The game was called after 4 1/2 innings because of the Interscholastic League’s mercy rule.

Jeremy Swan earned the victory as he allowed only two hits and struck out six.

T.J. Lynch paced an 11-hit attack with a two-run single plus a solo home run.

Hendricken will be chasing its seventh state title in the last 10 years while the Rebels will be seeking their first since 2002.

Johnston and Prout will battle it out for the Division II title. Prout will be making is fifth consecutive trip to the best-of-three finals after beating Woonsocket in three games.

In the decisive third game, Kory Lawrence belted a two-run double and Marshall Vigneault allowed four hits as the Crusaders prevailed, 3-2.

Johnston also went to three games before eliminating Westerly with a 10-1 triumph in the final game.

Joe Bongiovanni went the distance for the Panthers as he allowed six hits. And at the plate he collected two hits which were good for three RBI.

LIONS NEAR DREAM SEASON
What were the odds before the first pitch was thrown in anger that Lincoln’s softball team would go undefeated in 2012?

Right. Don’t ask.

But that’s what’s on the verge of happening.

Lincoln upped its record to 21-0 by blanking Toll Gate, 5-0, in the Division I winners’ bracket final.

Lindsay Mayer, who’s been a standout all season for the Lions, allowed six hits and fanned 15 en route to winning her 18th game of the season.

Coventry, came out of the losers’ bracket to reach the championship round as the Oakers beat Toll Gate, 4-2, in the bracket final.

Kerrie Deliberis went the route on a six-hitter replete with 10 strikeouts to pace the Oakers’ triumph.

Elsewhere:
*East Greenwich and West Warwick will clash for the Division II title. The top-seeded Avengers prevailed 11-0 over Woonsocket in a game that was called after 4 1/2 innings because of the league’s mercy rule. The Wizards came out of the losers’ bracket thanks to an 8-5 victory over the Villa Novans in the losers’ bracket final.

*Davies Tech captured the first softball title in school history by outlasting Central, 18-10, in the Division III finals. The Patriots were led by Maddie Goodhart, Kassandra Therrien and Caterina Martinez.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y, he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
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In 1955 the late, great comedic actor Peter Sellers made a movie titled “The Mouse That Roared.”

Rhode IslandIf the Rhode Island Interscholastic League should decide to make a high school baseball version of a sequel it should be named “The Cougars That Roared.”

With an enrollment of barely 500 male students, North Providence is near the bottom of the R.I.I.L. when it comes to sports. But the Cougars sure know how to play baseball.

Not only did coach Dean Garganese’s team capture the Division I championship with a 17-1 record, but the Cougars also earned the No. 1 seed in the 16-team, double-elimination Division I state tournament.

The Cougars got off on the right paw by mauling 16th-seeded Lincoln, 8-3, in an opening round game.

Mike Corin (three hits and two RBI), Nick DiDino (two-run single) and Tyler Proulx (two hits, one RBI) paced the attack as North Providence moved into the winners’ bracket.

North Providence annexed the top seed by blanking Moses Brown, 2-0, in its regular-season finale as Corin blanked the Quakers for six innings and Dillon McCluskie pitched a perfect seventh for the save.

In other first-round games:
* No. 2 Hendricken (the Hawks beat the Cougars two years ago in the finals) beat No. 15 East Greenwich, 7-2, as Bill Walker belted a solo homer and Tom Pannone (who’s signed a letter of intent to play his college ball at the University of Miami) allowed two runs on five hits over six innings.

* No. 14 Chariho upset No. 3 North Kingstown, 5-3, as Jacob Marchessault went the distance on a five-hitter. With the scored tied at 3 in the top of the seventh, Jim Paquette drilled a two-run single for the Chargers.

* No. 4 South Kingstown edged No. 13 Warwick Vets, 3-2, as Nick Hayes plated all of the Rebels’ runs with two hits.

* No. 5 La Salle blanked No. 12 Pilgrim, 3-0, with Caleb Gardner and Tyler Drainville combining for 12 strikeouts. The Rams scored their runs in the third on RBI doubles by Jesse Lee, Frank DiMato and Pat Burns.

* No. 11 Coventry knocked off No. 6 Cranston East, 5-1 as Matt Laferriere went the distance on a six hitter and fanned eight in the process.

* No. 7 Portsmouth routed No. 10 Cranston West, 10-0, with Matt Peters homering to key a 13-hit attack.

* No. 8 Cumberland had to work “overtime” to dispatch No. 9 Middletown, 1-0, in 12 innings. Ryan Harris led the last of the 12th with a single, advanced to third on a wild pickoff throw and scored the only run on a wild pitch.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 2, 2012
5/02/12
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Cranston West blinked first.

Rhode IslandThe Division I state baseball champion was clipped, 6-3, by 16-time state champion Hendricken.

That victory enabled the Hawks to remain undefeated and grab sole possession of first place.

Entering the first week in May, Hendricken (10-0) held a three-game lead over the Falcons (7-3).

Tom Pannone was a one-man wrecking crew against the Falcons. Besides striking out 10 he also hit a three-run homer. Pannone picked up where he left off in a 10-5 victory over East Greenwich as he fanned 11in 7 1/3 innings.

Mike King and Reed Gamache personally wrecked Tiverton in 13-0 victory. King tossed a no-hitter replete with six strikeouts while Gamache belted a grand-slam homer.

Pannone again wielded a big bat in an 8-4 win over Mount St. Charles when he smacked a sixth-inning solo homer that snapped a 4-4 tie.

HAWK SKATERS LEAD THE WAY
Not surprisingly Hendricken received the most slots on the All-State boys’ hockey team.

The state-champion Hawks, who ended Mount St. Charles’s run of four consecutive titles, placed goalie Bill Palmer, defenseman Dan Nolte and forward Matt Creamer on the First Team.

Palmer, who was voted MVP honors in the best-of-three finals against Mount, allowed only 13 goals in 15 regular-season games.

Creamer recorded 43 points in 27 overall games. But what was most noteworthy about this honor was that he became one of the very few freshmen ever to be voted First Team accolades.

Defenseman Ben Handanyan and forward Brian Belisle represented Mount on the First Team while forward Bryan Lemos represented La Salle.

TWO LADY RAMS SKATE ON FIRST TEAM
Goalie Holly Scott and freshman forward Meaghan Rickard earned First Team All-State honors for La Salle which captured the Division I state hockey title.

Scott, who was a First Team pick last year, was voted the MVP of the championship series versus Mount St. Charles.

Rickard led the Rams with 17-11-28 totals during the regular season.

Rounding out the First Team are Bay View defender Bethany Fogerty and forward Kiley Colucci plus Mount St. Charles defender Laureen Deguire and forward Brianna Castro.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
9:01
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Defending Division I state baseball champion Cranston West has picked up where it left off last season.

Rhode IslandThrough games of April 18, the Falcons (5-0) were tied for first place with Hendricken in Division 1 Central.

And like any good team, the Falcons are doing it with pitching and hitting.

Just check their last three games:
  • Rich Reo pitched no-hit ball until the sixth inning – the second time this season he’s lost a no-hitter in the sixth – and Frank Pettinato and Tony Crudale each collected three hits and two RBI in a 7-1 victory over Pilgrim.
  • Ryan Long scattered six hits and went the distance as the Falcons edged East Providence, 3-2.
  • Rob DeCosta led the last of the seventh with a solo home run which snapped a tie and gave the Falcons a 3-2 triumph over Cranston East.

In other games of note:
  • La Salle’s Caleb Gardner went the distance on a three-hitter, striking out 10 in the process, as the Rams beat Lincoln, 3-1. Frank D’Amato’s two-run homer and Jon Lapolla’s solo blast accounted for the Rams’ scoring.
  • Kyle Tracey threw only 95 pitches and went nine innings as Cranston East nipped Warwick Vets, 3-2.
  • Scituate’s Scott Iacobucci tossed a no-hitter, replete with 11 whiffs and only one walk, as the Spartans blanked Davies, 14-0, in a Division II-North game.
LAWSON TOPS ALL-STATE BASKETBALL TEAM
Senior forward Jarell Lawson led Central to the state basketball championship, the Knights’ first in 20 years.

Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when he was named First Team All-State.

Lawson averaged 19 points and 10.9 rebounds for the 19-4 Knights.

Joining Lawson on the First Team are North Kingstown senior center Evan Scott (he averaged 16.7 ppg. and tied the school record with 69 blocked shots); West Warwick senior forward Ryan Lawton (20.1 ppg. and 1.35 rpg.); La Salle junior guard Tom Hunt (18.9 ppg.); and, for the second consecutive year, St. Raphael junior guard Charles Correa (20.4 ppg. and 7.5 assists per game).

Second Team honors were accorded to St. Raphael senior forward Cesar Mejia, Hope senior forward Emmanuel Kargbo, Mount Pleasant sophomore guard Kip Stewart, North Providence senior guard Austin Van Bemmelen, Westerly junior guard Austin Cilley and West Warwick senior guard John Morrison.

WAS SILVA PUSHED OUT THE DOOR?
As is the case with many schools, coaches must apply for their positions on an annual basis regardless of their tenure.

That was the case with Mount Hope head football coach Ron Silva. But in what was anything but a “harmonious meeting,” Silva exited his session with school administrators after confirming he would not apply to remain the Huskies’ coach for the 2012 season.

In five seasons at the helm, Silva compiled a 22-19 record in Division II games and guided the Huskies to the playoffs four times.

Mount Hope advanced to the 2009 Super Bowl where it was blanked, 19-0, by Woonsocket.

Silva indicated he would like to continue coaching and noted he’s already received a few offers.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
2:48
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Maybe defending Division I baseball champion Cranston West was devastated by graduation. But if the Falcons’ season opener was any indication, they’re not exactly going to fly meekly into the night.

Rhode IslandToll Gate led Cranston West 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth when Joe Nicolace tied the score with a single and winning pitcher Bryan Stetson (who relieved starter Rich Reo in the top of the seventh) drew a bases-loaded walk to force in the winning run.

Still, coach Rob Malo faces a major challenge in that his complete starting lineup departed via the cap-and-gown route last spring.

What’s noteworthy about Cranston West’s success is that the Falcons have won three of the last six Division I state titles and broken the stranglehold Hendricken had on the championship trophy.

Perhaps the one team that might be favored to win the state title is North Kingstown – a feat the Skippers last accomplished 44 years ago.

North Kingstown will be led by First Team All-State third baseman Chris Hess who drove in 42 runs in 29 overall games plus first baseman Jared Habershaw who plated 41 runs and sophomore pitcher Dom Grillo who was 7-0 in his first season on the varsity.

The Skippers last season advanced to the third game of the best-of-three finals only to be torched 18-7 by the Falcons.

CLIPPERS IN SAME POSITION AS FALCONS
Cumberland’s softball team can sympathize with the Cranston West baseball team in that the Clippers annexed their first Division I state championship and then were wiped out by graduation.

Cumberland coach Marty Crowley lost a trio of All-State selections – pitcher Beth Paul, catcher Krissey Peffer and second baseman Christina Speroni.

In addition, junior All-State outfielder Bridget Connors will be sidelined for the season after suffering a knee injury.
The only senior on the team is third baseman Rebecca Geddes.

IMPRESSIVE START
Middletown’s McKenna Barlow was a one-girl wrecking crew as the Islanders blanked Rogers, 12-0, in the Division II-South opener for both teams.

Barlow not only pitched a no-hitter, replete with nine strikeouts. But she also went 3-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored.

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