The shots weren’t falling for the Bishop Hendricken basketball team in the first half of Friday’s game, but the Hawks weren’t too worried about that. The halftime chat focused on ramping up the defense.
And the Hawks were listening.
With a half-court trap creating a frantic pace, Hendricken allowed Classical to make just two field goals in the first 11 minutes of the second half and just four in the whole half. In the meantime, that defensive dominance created some easy baskets and sparked a 17-0 run. Pretty soon, everything was falling as the Hawks out-scored Classical 37-16 after halftime and rolled to a 62-43 victory.
“The ball didn’t go down for us in the first half, but we came out in the second half and really took over on the defensive end,” said Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes. “We tightened up our defense, we made a couple of adjustments and the guys responded well. I’m very proud of our guys.”
The win is the fourth in a row for the Hawks, who had lost three in a row before that. Their record now stands at 5-4, and the win over Classical was another sign that the Hawks are finding themselves.
“We’re turning the corner,” Gomes said. “We had a rough month of December. We had a lot of guys injured, we had guys sick. Every day, it felt like someone else was out. But this is really the first week where we’ve had everybody healthy, and we’ve gone on a nice run here.”
The run looked to be in jeopardy in Friday’s first half. The Hawks shot 28 percent from the field, struggling even with open looks. Classical didn’t light it up either, but the Purple still went to the break up 27-25.
“We knew going into the game that Classical was a good team that likes to shoot the three-ball so we had to take that away,” Gomes said. “We wanted to make them more of a two-point shooting team than a three-point shooting team and we were effective in doing that. The thing was in the first half, they made a lot of twos.”
But with the Hawks clamping down, the Purple didn’t make a lot of anything in the second half.
For the first five minutes, the game stayed close. Hendricken started heating up but Classical hung around thanks to a pair of threes by Toe Terrill. The second cut Hendricken’s lead to two with 10:05 left.
That’s when the Hawks turned it on.
With Kazre Cummings, Gerry Manning and Corey Palumbo leading the way with intense half-court defense, the Hawks didn’t allow a point for five minutes, 16 seconds. Classical committed five turnovers in that span and barely got a clean look at the basket.
“I’ve been proud of our guys all year long for our defense,” Gomes said. “For the most part, we’re holding teams in the mid to high 40’s. That has put us in position to win every game.”
And this time, the Hawks fully seized that chance.
While Classical went cold, Hendricken scored 17 points in a row to turn a close game into a blowout.
Nick Bourdeau started the run with a bucket inside and Lee Messier followed with a three-pointer. After a jumper and two free throws by Bourdeau, Manning scored inside then stole the ball and drove in for an easy layup.
Messier scored on the break to make it a 17-point lead and Cummings hit two free throws after a steal to make it 19.
Classical finally got back on the board with 4:49 left on a free throw by Kwami Moreno, but still couldn’t really get anything going. Kealen Ives hit a jumper and Terrill hit another three to make it a 15-point game, but Classical didn’t make another field goal.
“Our guys stuck to the gameplan,” Gomes said. “We made some adjustments in terms of how to guard their pick and roll, and we responded well. I thought Kazre Cummings came off the bench today and played lights out defense.”
In all, Classical shot 4 of 20 from the field in the second half. At the other end, the Hawks caught fire and shot 60 percent after the break.
Bourdeau led all scorers with 20 points, Messier had 11 and Manning scored 10. Palumbo chipped in six, while Cummings and Julian Mardenli had four each.
Classical came in with the same 4-4 record as the Hawks, so the win was a crucial one. Hendricken now has the second-best record in Division I-South, and sits in 10th place in the all-division power rankings that will determine playoff berths.
“To get in the playoffs now, you’ve got to have eight wins so I’ve been trying to tell them the importance of every single game,” Gomes said. “Classical is no slouch. They’ve been playing everybody tough, so I’m very proud of our guys.”
The Hawks will try to stay hot tonight when they host 1-8 Cranston West at 7 p.m.