At the risk of using a culinary metaphor, the regular season comprised the appetizer for boys’ basketball.
The 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.
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.