Boston High School: North Providence

North Providence (R.I.) hoop makes improbable run

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
12:38
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Nobody could blame North Providence High basketball coach Paul Rizzo if he shed tears of sadness last June when 10 of the 14 boys on his 2012-13 team that finished 15-3 and lost to Shea in the Division II quarterfinals graduated.

Rhode IslandNow flash forward to last Sunday when Rizzo again was shedding tears - albeit tears of joy.

The fifth-seeded Cougars, for all intents and purposes, came out of nowhere and upset second-seeded Barrington, 55-51, for the Division II state championship.

“The boys we returned played sparingly (last season),” said Rizzo. “We had several brand-new starters like Ryan McCluskie (18 ppg.), Connor Nesbitt, Alex Wagoner and Nick Sollitto plus two kids who were on the junior varsity last year and filled in, Nick Geremia (14 ppg.) and Chris Corin (12 ppg., an average that included 21 points against Barrington in the championship game)."

“Every year our goal is to make the playoffs. I stay positive with the guys. Make the playoffs and try to get better during the year, jell at some time and hopefully make some type of run.”

Good point considering the Cougars’ 30-game home winning streak was broken on February 4 when they were mauled by Barrington, 66-45.

Before the Cougars knew what hit them they were mired in a three-game losing streak – the longest North Providence had endured in the past six seasons.

At that point the Cougars were faced with two options: Mail in the rest of their schedule or show some grit and slam the door on that losing streak.

“I told the kids that Barrington and West Warwick were the class of our division and the favorites to win,” said Rizzo. “I told them you can’t get down. That stretch was the toughest part of the season. Exeter/West Greenwich (61-59) really was a tough loss. But then we regrouped.

“The kids don’t know how to get down. They’re positive. They stayed the course and kept working. I told them let’s just get back to the basics.”

Indeed.

The Cougars closed out their regular season with a five-game winning streak.

Then in the Division II Tournament they pulled off three upsets, beating fourth-seeded Prout 49-48, top-seeded West Warwick 66-52 and, as mentioned, No. 2 Barrington.

As a result, North Providence (16-8) earned the ninth seed in the 16-team Open State Championship Tournament.

Granted, North Providence averaged a modest 53.2 points per game on offense. But on defense they lived up to their nickname and played ferociously while holding opponents to a mere 49.6 points per game.

“I stress every year you should never have a night off defensively,” said Rizzo. “If you’re not good on offense you should be on defense. You have to be a constant every night and play defense. The starters play defense and the others have accepted their roles.”

Ironically, Rizzo’s current team is in stark contrast from an offensive standpoint to other teams he’s had in the past.

“We’ve had some dynamite offensive teams but they would take the night off on defense and we would play games in the 80s,” he said. “Two years ago we had three 1000-point scorers (Austin VanBemmelen, Mike Ferrante and Rob Hazard) and we got to the Elite Eight before La Salle beat us at Alumni Hall.”

The Cougars captured the 2010-11 Division II state title – their first since the 1987-88 season.

“When it came to winning close games (this season), we had guys making key shots,” said Rizzo. “They played good, solid basketball. They made free throws late. They made stops on defense. It didn’t look like they had that deer-in-the-headlights look.

“It was amazing how they reacted to those situations.”

How the Cougars react on the biggest boys’ basketball stage in the state could be most interesting commencing with Thursday night’s Round-of-16 game against eighth-seeded and defending state champion Classical.

“Classical arguably has the best player in the state in Kealen Ives,” said Rizzo. “Classical is the defending state champ and the winner of our game probably will play the number one seed (La Salle who faces 16th-seeded Middletown in the Round of 16) so you have to be playing your best ball.

“Going back three months and to see where we are now, my feeling is let’s ride with it.”

Given what the unsung Cougars have accomplished to date, perhaps it could be a longer “ride” than could have been predicted at the start of the season.

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.

La Salle (R.I.) hoop dethrones Classical

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
6:21
PM ET
Ordinarily, when a school holds a pep rally, regardless of sport, it’s before a playoff game.

That wasn’t the case on Tuesday night when La Salle Academy held a pep rally prior to its Division I crossover game with defending boys’ state basketball champion Classical High.

“(La Salle) kind of used (the game) as a measuring stick,” said Classical coach John Cavanagh after the Rams beat the Purple, 59-39. How well do we play against Classical? I do feel teams get up to play us.

“We took a bad loss to Woonsocket (73-64) which has struggled in recent years so that was a big win for them.”
As a result of that loss, Classical fell into a first-place tie in I-Central with Cranston East (each team is 6-3 while the Purple are 9-5 overall).

What made the Purple’s loss to La Salle (9-0 in I-North) noteworthy was that the Rams held Classical’s star guard, Kealen Ives, to a season-low 13 points.

“Everyone in the state knows who Kealen is,” said Cavanaugh. “They know he’s the best player in the state and is the target of players and fans. We’ve seen a lot of teams try to play more junk defenses, like a box-and-one or blitz him over half-court or hard-trap him.

“We’ve told the rest of the kids this is your opportunity. If we make this all about Kealen, we don’t have a chance. We need other guys to step up and be aggressive.”

That may be easier said than done considering the inexperience of this season’s team (Classical only has four seniors).

“I played four seniors and four juniors last season (en route to the state title),” said Kavanagh. “This year a sophomore and an inexperienced junior are in my starting lineup and three subs off the bench are an inexperienced senior, a sophomore and a freshman.

“I told Kealen (Tuesday night) that’s he’s burdened with having to play with a young team. We look for him so much that we neglect other opportunities for our other guys.”

The reason why the 5-foot-10 Ives is the primary object of attention for Classical opponents is obvious.

After Classical annexed the 2013 state title, the 5-foot-10 Ives was voted First Team All-Division and First Team All-State honors as well as being named Rhode Island’s Player of the Year by MaxPreps.com.

Ives led Classical in scoring (21.8 ppg.) and assists (5.4 pg.).

Through the Purple’s first 14 games this season, those numbers have ballooned to the point where he’s averaging 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists.

In addition, he’s been nominated to play in the 2014 McDonald’s Senior All-American High School Basketball games.

“He’s a total player,” said Kavanagh. “He’s a much better rebounder this year. He may go down as the leading scorer in school history. When all is said and done, Kealen probably will score over 1,600 points in his career.

“He isn’t necessarily a shooter but he is a shot-maker. He needs to work on going to his off-hand and he has a tendency to finish with a (Rajon) Rondo move where he throws the ball up (off the glass).”

Despite all the stats Ives has accumulated in his career, his subjective qualities are what please his coach the most.

“He works confidently at his game,” said Kavanagh. “His leadership has grown. I’ve never been around a high school kid that’s had the qualities he has.

“He’s vocal. He’s passionate. He speaks his mind. And he expects when he’s not doing well for other kids to call him out.”

Bad breaks: If Barrington and The Prout School are going to win their respective division titles, each team will have to rely on its depth or, as the cliché’ goes, for another player to step up his game.

The Eagles, who currently lead II-East (7-1; 10-3 overall) lost the state’s leading scorer (23.0 ppg.), Corey Daugherty with a hand and wrist injury during a 76-64 loss to West Warwick on Jan. 17.

The initial diagnosis was that he strained ligaments in his wrist and suffered a bone bruise on his hand. That being said, he’s still listed as being out indefinitely.

The Crusaders also lost their top scorer, freshman Tomas Murphy, with a hairline fracture of a forearm during a 54-49 victory over North Providence on January 14.

Depending on how soon that fracture heels, Murphy could return to action by mid-February.

Who’s going where: A host of Rhode Island schoolboy and schoolgirls athletes recently signed letters of intent to play their respect sport commencing next season:

* North Kingstown’s Dominic Grillo will be playing baseball for the University of Rhode Island. Grillo last spring earned the Division I-South Cy Young Award. During the first three years of his career on the mound, the left-hander has racked up a 30-3 record replete with a 0.69 ERA.

* Three Barrington High Lady Eagles, who led their team to the Division I state lacrosse championship last spring, will move onward after graduating. All-State goalie Kate Clancy will enroll at the University of New Hampshire; All-State midfielder Madeline Soutter will be attending Boston College; and All-State midfielder/defender Mary Kate Coogan will make the trek to Colgate University.

* La Salle’s Chris Dandeneau and Ryan Lynch will be playing baseball for the University of Connecticut.

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.

Rhode Island football preview

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
5:09
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Invariably any pre-season football preview at least starts – but doesn’t necessarily end – with perennial Division I power Hendricken.

Rhode IslandCoach Keith Croft’s Hawks are coming off their third consecutive Division I Super Bowl championship (and ninth in school history) but enter the 2013 season with a dearth of seniors.

Only 13 are listed on the roster which means Croft has his work cut out for him looking to replace First Team All-State selections like tight end/defensive lineman Mario McClain, two-way lineman Nick DeCiantis, linebacker Jarrid Witherspoon and linebacker Marco Delvecchio.

Fortunately, for the Hawks, they could be solid on offense since they feature easily one of the state’s top running backs in junior Remington Blue, plus junior quarterback Patrick Gill. Gill seemingly came out of nowhere last season to earn the No. 1 signal-caller position and in the end was a major factor in the Super Bowl as Hendricken upset heavily-favored La Salle.

The key for Gill will be to remain healthy since the only other experienced quarterback on the Hendricken roster, John Toppa, opted not to play football this season.

Without question La Salle coach Geoff Marcone faces a major challenge in his attempt to replace two of the most productive offensive players in school history – First Team All-State running back Josh Morris (the 2011 Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year) and First Team All-State quarterback Anthony Francis (the 2012 Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year).

Marcone does have 18 seniors on his roster and will choose his starting quarterback from a group that includes sophomores Jace Pena and John Farley.

Keon Wilson again will be the primary target for whoever lines up under center while the defense will be led by linebacker Brendan Lippe.

The two Cranston teams, Cranston East and Cranston West, also could figure in the playoff picture.

East returns First Team All-State running back/defensive back Marquem Monroe who last season scored a total of 14 touchdowns and also intercepted four passes.

First Team All-Stater Marven Beauvais complements Monroe on offense while Alex Corvese is an experienced quarterback.

Cranston West will be a force if the Falcons received production that’s expected from running back Isaiah Alvarez and linebacker Jack Hammond.

***

Division II invariably is the most wide-open division in the state – one reason being the format.

Eight teams are in II-A, eight in II-B and top four in each division qualify for the playoffs.

Cumberland qualified for the Super Bowl for the first time since 2005 and waxed Woonsocket, 49-0, for all the marbles led by a pair of graduated All-State picks – wide receive Mitch Baxter and tight end Trent Vasey.

But the Clippers still have talent, especially in the appropriately-named running back Joe Fine plus linebacker Chris Hayes who led Cumberland in tackles last season.

The Villa Novans, who’ve undergone a resurrection in recent years, will be out to avenge that lop-sided loss to Cumberland in the Super Bowl.

Leading the way will be speedster Will Andino who can run and catch the ball plus junior lineman Shawn Ingram, a potential First Team All-State selection.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Rhode Island

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
4:08
PM ET
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

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
6:54
PM ET
At the risk of using a baseball metaphor, the result of the Division I Super Bowl came out of left field.

Rhode IslandHow else do you explain the fact that regular-season champion La Salle was upset, 26-20, by Hendricken in Sunday’s Division I Super Bowl?

Not only did the Rams (who were 9-0 in league play) wax the Hawks, 28-7, in their regular-season game on Nov. 19, but they were a combined 18-1 versus league opponents over the last two season.

And La Salle also boasted the last two Rhode Island Gatorade Players of the year in running back Josh Morris (2011) and quarterback Anthony Francis (2012).

The answer to the above question is two-fold in nature:
  • The Hawks kept La Salle’s potent offense on the sidelines thanks to a ball-control game led by junior Remington Blue.
  • Hendricken’s defense accounted for eight points while the Hawks’ special teams deprived La Salle of another when a PAT was blocked.

Add all of this up and the Hawks wound up in elite company in that they tied the record (three) for most consecutive Division I Super Bowl titles since the Interscholastic League implemented this format in 1972. And ironically, the Hawks were the last team to accomplish this feat since they did so from 1994-96.

Senior linebacker Jarrid Weatherspoon was the Hawk defender who accounted six of the above-mentioned eight points when he intercepted a Francis pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown with 2:05 left in the third quarter – a play that gave Hendricken a lead (17-13) it would not relinquish.

Hendricken’s defense gave the team a 19-13 lead at intermission when it forced an illegal put out of the end zone following a bad snap.

Blue was voted the game’s MVP after rushing for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. As a result, Blue finished his season with 1,065 yards on 128 carries.

TRAVERS STEERS CLIPPERS TO TITLE
Whoever said a game isn’t over until it’s over obviously didn’t have the Division II Super Bowl between Blackstone Valley rivals Cumberland and Woonsocket in mind.

Senior Erik Travers played a career game as Cumberland routed Woonsocket, 49-0, for the Clippers’ first state title since 2004. Travers carried the ball 23 times for an even 100 yards and scored four – count ‘em, four – touchdowns which earned him the MVP plaque and enabled Cumberland to finish with an impressive 12-1 overall record.

In retrospect, Cumberland’s performance was in keeping with its play during the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs when it outscored its opponents by a whopping 374-63 margin.

But Travers had to share the accolades with numerous teammates, including quarterback Brendan Guerin, who completed 13 of 17 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and Tyler Calabro, who converted on each of his seven extra-point attempts.

Cumberland’s defense also forced seven turnovers which, for all intents and purposes, put the Villa Novans in a hole which was the equivalent of the Grand Canyon.

Travers set the tone on the game’s first series when he gained 35 yards on seven rushes and scored on a one-yard run.

Then, on their second possession, Cumberland covered 72 yards in 15 plays with Guerin tossing a five-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Baxter.

At that point, arguably the only question left to be answered was what would be Cumberland’s final margin of victory.

VINCENT DOES IT ALL FOR MIDDLETOWN
Granted, Middletown’s sophomore running back Shemar Vincent was one of the youngest players on the field when the Islanders faced East Greenwich in the Division III Super Bowl.

But Vincent played like a veteran as the Islanders outlasted the Avengers, 33-21, for its second Super Bowl title in the last three years.

Not only did Vincent run for 73 yards and two touchdowns but he also did the following:
  • Catch a deflected pass which he returned 60 yards for a score.
  • Recover a fumbled punt which led to a touchdown.

Naming him the game’s MVP might have been the easiest decision made by anybody who witnessed the contest.

But Vincent also received ample support from his teammates. For example, running back Connor Russ gained 91 yards and scored twice on 19 carries while fullback Randy Butler pounded EG’s defense for 66 yards on 15 rushes.

Lost in the rubble was a superb performance by EG running back Carney Crawford who accounted for 126 yards and two scores on 16 carries.

KILTIES STILL DOMINATE DIVISION IV
While Hendricken wasn’t the first school to win three consecutive Division I Super Bowl titles, Mount Pleasant became the first to annex three consecutive Division IV crowns.

The Kilties put their name in the record book by twice coming from behind before eventually whipping North Providence, 41-21.

Mount Pleasant, who finished 10-2 overall, hasn’t lost a Division IV game in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Moreover the 41 points the Kilties scored shouldn’t have been unexpected considering they racked up 373 during the regular season and the Division IV semifinals.

Randolph Zieh earned game MVP honors and deservedly so since he scored four touchdowns (one on a 60-yard run) and ran for a two-point conversion.

Mount Pleasant broke the game open when it erupted for 26 points in the second quarter including a trio of touchdowns by Zieh.

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

November, 6, 2012
11/06/12
4:24
PM ET
If they haven’t already, Rhode Island high school football fans should circle Nov. 9 on their calendars.

Rhode IslandThat’s when La Salle and Hendricken – arguably the top two teams in the state regardless of division – will meet at the Hawks’ field with the Division I championship at stake.

La Salle (6-0) and Hendricken (6-1) established that scenario last weekend when the Rams blasted Cranston East, 41-12, and the Hawks flew by Barrington, 18-6.

If the Rams prevail and also beat East Providence (1-5) on Thanksgiving, they’ll clinch the outright title plus the No. 1 seed in the Division I Tournament. But should the Rams lose to the Townies and the Hawks beat La Salle, each team would finish 7-1, and Hendricken would earn the top seed by virtue of having beaten La Salle.

All-State running back Josh Morris shredded Cranston East’s defense as he scored four touchdowns – for the second consecutive year against the Thunderbolt. Morris’s scores came on runs of 19, 20, 18 and 30 yards.

In addition quarterback Anthony Francis threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Keon Wilson and scored on a one-yard run.

In its previous game, La Salle only led Barrington 17-14 at halftime but exploded for 24 points in the second half and coasted to a 41-17 victory.

Morris again led the way by running 12 times for 122 yards and two scores.

Ironically, Cranston East was coming off one of the more dramatic victories in school history.

Coach Tom Centore’s team spotted Portsmouth a 25-point lead at halftime and then rallied for a 51-47 victory.

E.J. Isom scored on a three-yard run with three minutes left on the clock to cap the comeback and set up the Bolt’s big game versus La Salle.

DIVISION II PICTURE IN FOCUS
As a result of last weekend’s games, the pairings are set for the Division II Tournament.

Johnston (7-0), Mount Hope (5-2), Woonsocket (5-2) and Westerly (4-3) earned the top four spots in Division II-A.

In Division II-B, undefeated Cumberland (7-0) earned the No. 1 seed followed by No. 2 St. Raphael (5-2), No. 3 West Warwick (4-3) and No. 4 Rogers (4-3).

Because West Warwick, Rogers and Central each finished 4-3, tiebreakers determined the last two seeds and Central became the odd team out.

Johnston finished strong by winning each of its last two games, 38-10 over Westerly and 42-6 over Warwick Vets.

In the victory over Westerly, Evan Hopson caught a pair of touchdown passes, kicked a 27-yard field goal and converted three-of-four extra-point attempts.

Hopson was just as prolific against the Hurricanes since he again caught two touchdown passes and returned a fellow Panther’s fumble for a third score.

ISLANDERS MAKE HISTORY
Don’t waste your time delving through the record books to find the last year when Middletown completed an undefeated regular season in league play (in this case Division III).

At the least, that happened four decades ago - perhaps when the parents of the current Islanders were youngsters. And, if Middletown beats Tolman and Portsmouth in a pair of non-league games, it will record an undefeated regular season – period.

Middletown, which has outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 339-96, handed East Greenwich its first loss of the season, 20-7.

Junior Connor Ross accounted for each of Middletown’s touchdowns on runs of 13, 27 and five yards. Ross clinched the victory when he intercepted a pass with one minute remaining at the Islanders’10-yard line.

Also in Division III, Moses Brown (5-2) clinched a playoff berth by routing Burrillville, 31-13.

Andrew Howard paced the Quakers by rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

KILTIES REIGN IN DIVISION IV
Mount Pleasant put the wraps on an undefeated Division IV season by blanking Central Falls, 33-0.

Randolph Zish paced the Kilties (7-0) by amassing 275 rushing yards and each of his team’s five touchdowns.

The field for the Division IV Tournament is just about set.

Hope (6-1) will have the second seed while North Providence (4-2) and North Smithfield (4-2) will battle for the fourth and final seed.

HAWKS REMAIN DOMINANT
Few teams have dominated boys’ cross country like Hendricken. The Hawks annexed their fifth consecutive state championship on Nov. 4 by scoring 44 points – 20 fewer than second-place La Salle.

Hendricken’s points were accounted for by Connor Doyle (fourth), Colin Tierney (fifth), Tyler Henseler (seventh), Alex Doherty (135h) and Collin Manning (15th).

The Hawks added the state trophy to the Class A championship they had captured the previous week.

Trevor Crawley became the first Cumberland runner to notch the state individual title in 14 years by covering the 5000-meter course at Ponganset High in 15:39.47. That time was 20 seconds faster than second-place finisher Bryce Kelley of Chariho.

BARRINGTON GIRLS DOUBLE UP
The Barrington girls may have needed a trailer to carry home all the trophies they annexed at the state cross country championships on Nov. 4 at Ponaganset.

As a team, Barrington easily captured its second consecutive state title by scoring a mere 31 points – 40 less than second-place La Salle.

In addition, freshman Emma McMillan won the individual title with a time of 18:22.99 on the 5000-meter course.

According to Interscholastic League records, McMillan is the first freshman female to win the individual championship since 1995. She finished 8.5 seconds ahead of La Salle’s Sheridan Wilbur.

After McMillan, Megan Vener-Crist (fourth), Fiona Paine (eight), Julianna Portelli (ninth) and Abigail Livingston (12th) rounded out Barrington’s first five finishers.

LINCOLN TRIO OFF TO COLLEGE
When Nov. 14 rolls around, three Lincoln High student-athletes will sign National Letters of Intent.

All-State pitcher Lindsay Mayer will sign with Virginia while teammate Emily Bouthillete will remain in state and sign with Bryant University.

All-Stater Nick Zammarell will head south and play baseball with Elon University in North Carolina.

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
6:17
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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

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
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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

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
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Buried amidst the rubble in Central Falls, which long ago filed for bankruptcy and has been under the direction of a state-appointed receiver, has been the fate of the coaches of the city’s lone high school.

Rhode IslandTo be precise, they’ve given new meaning to the words “volunteer coaches.”

Because of a budget freeze and ongoing contract negotiations between the city and the union representing teachers, Warriors coaches have been guiding their teams sans compensation.

That was true in the fall; it’s carried over to the winter sports season; and barring any change in developments the status will remain quo come the spring.

Ironically, Warrior teams have enjoyed an inordinate amount of success.

Coach Mo Jackson led CF to the Division IV Super Bowl in December.

Coach Rich Sousa took his girls’ volleyball team to the Division II semifinals.

Coach Carl Africo guided the boys’ soccer team to the Division I quarterfinals.

The other falls sports for which coaches weren’t paid are boys’ and girls’ cross country, girls’ soccer and unified volleyball.

CF’s winter sports include boys’ and girls’ basketball, wrestling, boys’ and girls’ track and unified basketball.

The spring sports slate includes only baseball and softball.

The 63-year-old Jackson, who’s the dean of Warrior coaches, didn’t learn about the lack of funding until midway through the football season.

“I was a little upset,” Jackson was quoted in The Times of Pawtucket. “But I wasn’t going to abandon the kids halfway through the season.

“I don’t know if I had known before the season started if I would have coached. After being here 20 years, I’d like the opportunity to make that decision. But you don’t get into (coaching high school sports) to make a lot of money.”

North Kingstown, to a certain extent, is in a similar position as Central Falls – although the South County town is far from bankruptcy.

However, it has a projected $1.6 million deficit for fiscal year 2013.

As a result, Superintendent Phil Auger is working on proposals that could include cuts that would impact Skipper high school teams.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
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Call it the calm before the proverbial storm as far as Rhode Island Division I football teams were concerned.

Rhode IslandFirst-place La Salle (4-0, 5-1) absorbed its first loss of the season as the Rams bowed, 27-16 to Bridgewater-Raynham in a non-league game Saturday.

As for the three teams that are tied for second place, Hendricken (3-1) and Cranston West (3-1) were idle while East Providence (3-1, 5-1) beat Mount Hope, 36-20, in a non-league game.

That was a good news-bad news scenario as far as the Townies were concerned.

The good news was that quarterback Brandon Peters ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Moreover, it was the second straight impressive game for Peters who ran for two touchdowns and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Victor Adewusi in a 27-19 win over Cranston East on Oct. 7.

The bad news was that the Townies were penalized an unbelievable 16 times for 128 yards against the Huskies.

But at the mid-point of the season, the best is yet to come.

Following is a list of games that could (should?) have a bearing on who wins the regular-season title and earns the No. 1 seed in November’s tournament:
  • October 21 – East Providence at Hendricken.
  • October 28 – Cranston West at La Salle and Barrington (3-2) at East Providence.
  • November 4 – Cranston West at Hendricken.
  • November 24 (Thanksgiving Day) – La Salle at East Providence.

The Hawks (4-1 overall) may have the division’s best running game led by Lou Falcone and Ryan Brannigan.

Heading into the East Providence game, Falcone has carried the ball 52 times for 386 yards (a 7.4-yard average) and eight touchdowns, while Brannigan has ran 55 times for 385 yards (7.0-yard average) and four scores.

Cranston West plays a non-league game Friday at Dennis-Yarmouth and the Dolphins may regret scheduling this contest because the Falcons are still seething after their first loss of the season – 40-7 to South Kingstown.

When all is said and done, that upset could wind up biting the Falcons where it hurts the most.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
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Here’s the scary part about La Salle Academy’s 39-14 romp over defending Division I Super Bowl champion Hendricken: each of the six Rams who scored touchdowns are juniors -- repeat juniors and not seniors.

Rhode IslandWhile it wouldn’t be fair to say that running back Josh Morris stood head and shoulders above his classmates, it also wouldn’t be far-fetched.

Morris scored three touchdowns, two on runs of 21 and 38 yards, and the other on a 78-yard kickoff return to start the second half.

As for La Salle’s other juniors who figured prominently in this game, quarterback Anthony Francis (who missed half of last season with an injury) threw touchdown passes of 21 and 46 yards to Tyneil Cooper while Francis also plunged 1 yard for a score.

While this game was the league opener for each team, the victory improved the Rams’ overall record to 3-0 – during which they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 106 to 21.

Another reason why the game was noteworthy is that either the Hawks or Rams have played in every Division I Super Bowl for the last 17 seasons yet they’ve never played each other in the big game.

Finally, the result may have been a premonition of things to come because La Salle has qualified for the Division I playoffs for 11 consecutive years.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

May, 19, 2011
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All of a sudden, there’s a hole in the East Providence High boys’ hockey program that resembles the Grand Canyon.

Rhode IslandTownie alumnus Gregg Amore, who revived a program that barely had a pulse, resigned his position earlier this month, along with his entire staff.

Ironically, his top assistant, Derek Borek, shortly thereafter was named the head coach at East Bay rival Barrington.

Granted, East Providence’s glory days of the 1970s (the Townies won the now-defunct New England championship and the Rhode Island Division I title in 1975) have been long gone. But Amore restored a great deal of respectability while playing in Division III/Met C.

Amore’s teams were 86-70-4 during the regular season and 101-78-4 overall (this includes a 15-8 record in post-season play which the Townies qualified for five times).

EP hit the jackpot in the 2004-05 season as it compiled a 26-0-0 record and captured the Division III state title – the school’s first in hockey in over 30 years.

Amore inherited a program that had only nine – repeat, nine – players. He dressed 25 last season and leaves the program in much better shape than it was when he first draped a whistle around his neck.

Borek, another Townie alumnus, replaces Ken Fogarty who resigned after three seasons on the bench. The Eagles were 14-4-0 in Division I in 2009-10 but fell to 5-12-1 last season.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

March, 25, 2011
3/25/11
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Choose your cliché:

The clock struck midnight and Cinderella turned into a pumpkin.

The air went out of the balloon.

The ceiling caved in.

Rhode IslandEach of the above is applicable when describing the improbable run tiny Tiverton High made to the finals of the first open boys’ basketball tournament since 1966.

No. 5 seed and long-time Division I power St. Raphael Academy annexed the seventh state championship in school history when it beat No. 11 seed and long-time Division II / Division III member Tiverton, 58-47.

It also prevented the Tigers from writing a “Hoosiers-like” ending to what could have been a Hollywood script.

But, first, credit must be paid to coach Tom Sorrentine’s Saints, who also beat No. 9 North Providence, 66-48 in the semifinals and No. 13 West Warwick, 68-60 in the quarterfinals, and won their first state title since 2002.

Tiverton built a 24-19 halftime lead before SRA rallied behind sophomore point guard Charles Correa, who poured in a game-high 21 points and was voted tourney MVP honors.

Defense also played a key in SRA’s win as the Saints played a box-and-one defense on Gunnar Bjornson, who led the state in scoring. Bjornson did score 15 points but that was 10 below his average. And he was held to zero three-point baskets.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

February, 10, 2011
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For those of a certain age, it was the equivalent of the U.S. Calvary coming to the rescue in an old John Wayne movie. But there wasn’t anything “entertaining” about the facts leading up to the crisis.

Rhode IslandAs February dawned on the calendar, the Cranston School Committee was on the verge of eliminating all sports at the city’s two high schools – Cranston East and Cranston West. The move would have been part of an attempt to eliminate a projected $3.7-million deficit in the proposed school budget for the 2011-12 academic year.

But nearly at the last moment, the New England Laborers/Cranston Public Schools Construction Career Academy’s board of directors opted to transfer a $79,928 surplus from its budget to restore all varsity sports. (The latter is a joint effort of the New England Laborers Union and the Cranston Public Schools). Otherwise, the School Committee would have been left with few options and varsity sports like football, basketball, hockey and baseball would have become a distant memory.

As it is, funding is still lacking for freshman football, basketball and baseball. That was the case last year at this time but private donations enabled the School Committee to restore freshman football. But at the moment, any word of similar donations is still lacking.

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New England Roundup: Rhode Island

October, 20, 2010
10/20/10
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Maybe it didn’t have all the glitz and glamour of the games Rogers High played against Division I rivals like La Salle, Hendricken and East Providence in the 1970s and 1980s. But the Vikings’ 7-0 victory over Aquidneck Island rival Middletown High on Oct. 15 put coach Frank Newsome’s team in a place that it’s seldom been over the last decade and a half -- first place in Division III.

Rhode IslandUnder the legendary John Toppa, Rogers won five Division I championships from 1973 through 1978 and five more from 1985 through 1990. But entering this season, the Vikings had posted only two winning records in the last nine years (5-4 in 2000 and 6-4 in 2005).

Moreover, the program hit rock bottom from 2006 through 2009 when Rogers compiled a painful 9-23 record.

One reason for the Vikings’ decline didn’t require a Bill Parcells to decipher: A lack of talent brought on by the exodus of talent from Newport as families moved from the City by the Sea. Or in the case of Navy personnel, men and women were transferred and, of course, their children went with them.

As a result, Rogers dropped all the way down to Division III this season - something which would have been unthinkable as recently as the 1990s.

Middletown, meanwhile, primarily has played in Division III but has spent time in each of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s four divisions. But the only time the Islanders played for the Division I state championship was in 1980.

After the Vikings’ conquest of Middletown, they had sole possession of first place at 4-0 (6-1 overall) while Middletown and Moses Brown were tied for second at 3-1.

Understandably, Newsome isn’t about to “request” that playoff tickets be printed. But this latest victory gives the Vikings a better shot at qualifying for the playoffs than might have been the case if they had remained in Division I.

The game’s only score came in the third quarter when quarterback Cody Platt threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Morgera, and Damion Rodrigo kicked the extra point.

Defense was the key for Rogers –- especially when it came to stopping Middletown’s All-State running back Rico McCray.

McCray stepped on the field have scored 14 touchdowns and a total of 88 points in Middletown’s four overall games.

Against Rogers, not only was he held scoreless but he also was held to less than 100 yards rushing which was well below his per-game average.

Barring an upset between last weekend and Oct. 30, Rogers can take a major step toward clinching the regular-season title -- plus the top seed in the playoffs -- by beating Moses Brown in Providence.

EXTRA POINTS:
A list of other recent football highlights:
  • Barrington continued to fare well against its parochial school rivals by blasting La Salle, 27-7, on Oct. 8, which helped the Eagles tie for second place in Division I. Jack Ryan, who was Barrington’s No. 2 quarterback last season, threw touchdown passes of 35 yards to Vin St. Angelo and 22 yards to Alex Spiess, and also ran 60 yards for a fourth-quarter score.
  • Chariho (3-1) handed Johnston (3-1) its first loss in Division II-A by posting a 21-14 victory on October 15 as Joe DiSpirito ran six yards for a key fourth-quarter touchdown.
  • Brent Champagne was a one-man wrecking crew for Cranston West as he ran four touchdowns of 42, 32, 45 and 58 yards in a 39-13 romp over St. Raphael in a non-league game.
  • Tevin Dale returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown and then returned an interception 50 yards for another score as Mount Pleasant blanked North Providence, 34-0, in Division IV action.
  • Exeter-West Greenwich’s Al Georgio continued to slice and dice Division IV defenses as he ran for 328 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 26-22 victory over North Smithfield on Oct. 15. The victory enabled the Scarlet Knights to remain undefeated at 5-0 – and in first place, one-half game ahead of Mount Pleasant (4-0).
COUGAR ON THE RUN
To say North Providence’s Alex Gallo was disappointed in his performance in the New Balance Ocean State Invitational in late September would be a major understatement.

The Cougar standout placed a lackluster (by his standards) 67th – one reason being he slipped and fell on the Goddard State Park course in Warwick.

Gallo ran more like he usually does on Oct. 16 in the 28th annual Brown University Cross Country High School Invitational.

He outdistanced his other Rhode Island rivals by placing eighth in the Boys’ Championship Race with a personal-best time of 15:31 – a race that featured just over 100 of the Northeast’s top runners.

Gallo’s performance may have stamped him as the runner to beat in the class and State championship meets.

WELL-DESERVED RETIREMENT
Dick Magarian, who built Coventry High into one of New England’s top interscholastic wrestling programs, recently announced his retirement as the Assistant Executive Director of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.

The 70-year-old Magarian was named to the position in 1996. When he steps down officially in January, it will mark the first time in 48 years that he won’t be involved in education as a teacher or an administrator or as a coach.

ENTER THE HALL
One-time East Providence High basketball star Kenny Bliss has been tabbed for induction as part of the Class of 2010 for the Rhode Island College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Bliss played in 96 games for the Anchormen and scored 1,311 points. That total ranked 10th all-time in school history upon his graduation in 2001.

He earned First Team All-Little East Conference honors as a senior after earning honorable mention accolades as a junior.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball and hockey and 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.

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