In the 2010-11 boys’ basketball season, Warwick Vets had a resurgent year, going 11-7 and making the playoffs. Last season, Toll Gate carried the city’s torch, going 15-3 and winning a regular-season division title.
But in each of those seasons, despite their success, Warwick teams didn’t get the extra holiday gift they were looking for. In the annual Warwick Beacon Holiday Classic, Providence Country Day crashed the party. The Knights beat Vets for the title in the 2010 tournament and knocked off Toll Gate in 2011.
The last time a Warwick team won the tournament was in 2009, when Pilgrim beat Vets.
The same four teams will get together again for another Beacon Classic starting tonight at Warwick Vets. Toll Gate plays PCD at 5 p.m., and Vets plays Pilgrim at 7 p.m. The consolation game is set for Friday at 5 p.m., with the title game slated for 7 p.m.
The Warwick teams will be pushing for the championship, and all of them figure to have a shot.
The three Warwick public schools are now playing in the same division – Pilgrim has moved to D-III this season after remaining in D-II two years longer than their counterparts. That means they’ve all already seen each other. Toll Gate owns a pair of victories over their rivals – a 66-44 win over Vets and a 54-47 victory over Pilgrim. In the other match-up between the teams, Vets beat Pilgrim 70-55.
Those results give the early nod to Toll Gate. The Titans lost four starters from last year’s highly successful team, but they had a host of juniors waiting in the wings. Those players are now seniors and they have gladly seized the opportunity this year. John Coleman, Tyler Inkley and John Murphy give the Titans one of the biggest front lines in the division. Guards Ben Mann and Kyle Toolin are both versatile players who can score.
Toll Gate suffered its first league loss to Juanita Sanchez last week but bounced back with a one-point victory over Mt. Hope. The Titans will carry a 3-1 league record into the tournament.
In terms of experience, Vets is a year off Toll Gate’s pace. The ‘Canes have only two seniors and their starting lineup has featured three sophomores and two juniors.
But the ‘Canes have flashed plenty of potential, especially in their win over Pilgrim. Juniors Will Remak and Scott Camara had breakout games in that one and will be trying to build on their success. Vets lost its next game after the Pilgrim contest, falling 58-51 to Moses Brown.
Pilgrim picked up its first victory of the season on Saturday, beating St. Patrick 62-43. The Pats are led by big man Ryan Morris and guards Luis Pimental and Cole Furney. While the Pats lost a lopsided game to Vets, they played tough against Toll Gate and actually led at the half.
For all the positives Warwick teams have shown so far, they may still be underdogs to the Knights. PCD plays in the prep school ranks and returns its top player from a year ago in junior guard Tom Horvat. Horvat scored 14 points in last year’s Beacon Classic championship game. This year, he helped lead the Knights to a victory over perennial prep school power St. Andrew’s with a 31-point performance in last year’s Beacon Classic championship game. This year, he helped lead the Knights to a victory over perennial prep school power St. Andrew’s with a 31-point performance.