Senior leadership will be key for Hawks in title defense

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The Hendricken basketball team will be looking to clinch a third straight state championship this season, and with several key pieces from last year’s title team back this winter, the Hawks may be the team to beat once again.

The Hawks took the court for the first time against Toll Gate in their traditional Injury Fund matchup on Friday evening. Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes got all of his players in the game, and he was happy overall with what he saw in an 85-39 victory. One thing that was evident was the fact that the Hawks don’t have a lot of size this season, as their tallest starter was senior captain Tyrone Weeks at 6-foot-3. However, this may be the quickest team that Hendricken has had in quite some time, and it will look to utilize its speed, experience and athleticism as it enters league play this week.

“I’m happy with the energy,” Gomes said following the game at Toll Gate. “I thought we came in with very good energy, and I think our defense came out of the gates ready to play. That’s going to be the key to the success of our season, utilizing our speed and our quickness. We’re not a tall team, but we have speed.”

Hendricken’s starting five is definitely going to be tough to slow down this season. The group saw limited time together against Toll Gate with frequent substitutions, but it was clear that the skill and athleticism of those players will pose problems for several teams in Division I. Senior captain Jalen Watson caught fire from beyond the arc on Friday, knocking down five 3-pointers en route to netting a game-high 17 points. Weeks was also a force both inside and outside, adding 14 points. Bobby Fiorito, who was the MVP of the title game as a sophomore last season, also had an impressive showing at point guard. Those three players will be relied on to lead the Hawks, both on and off the court.

“A big key to our success this year will be getting leadership from our seniors,” Gomes said. “We had great leadership from our seniors last year, and that’s going to be the key this year. Tyrone, Jalen Watson and Bobby Fiorito, even though he’s only a junior, we’re expecting big leadership from these guys because that’s what gets you through until the end – the ability of your seniors to step up and lead.”

Junior Andre De Los Santos and sophomore Angel Sanchez also started and played well. Sanchez had a very strong season last year while starting as a freshman, and he’ll take on an even bigger role this season with all of the experience that he’s already gained. Junior Zach Brooks was also a key contributor in the Injury Fund matchup, scoring nine points and giving the Hawks some strong minutes off the bench at the point guard position.

The Hawks are returning nine players from last year’s team, while adding a couple of sophomores and a freshman, Cam Hughes, who Gomes expects to contribute right away.

“He’s a freshman, and he’s going to help us in the low post and rebounding,” Gomes said of Hughes.

Gomes expects Division I to be strong and balanced this season, with South Kingstown, East Providence, La Salle and North Kingstown also possessing strong teams. There’s no question that everyone in Division I will be trying to knock off the defending champs.

“Everyone’s targeting us, so we just need to work hard and defend ourselves,” Weeks said.

Hendricken will get its Division I schedule started this week, as the Hawks will open up at East Providence on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Hendricken will then have its home opener on Friday night, when it hosts Classical at 7 p.m.

“We have a couple of good tests this week,” Gomes said. “We’re going to be at East Providence, which is going to be one of the better teams in the league this year, and then we have Classical coming in. We need to regroup, have three days of practice and get ready for East Providence.”

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