We now enter one of my favorite times of the year … the basketball and hockey playoffs.
With the tournaments set to kick off later this week, we finally have a firm grasp of what teams are legitimate and which are not. Now, we get to see which ones are championship caliber, which ones are not good, but great.
Here are my thoughts on our upcoming tournaments:
I have to admit, I did not expect Bishop Hendricken to dominate the way that is has this season.
The Hawks lost more than half of its core from last season and did not have a bona fide stud heading into 2019-20.
Of course, Jamal Gomes is the top coach in the state and has his team toward the top on a yearly basis, I expected the team to compete, but for it to be the favorite heading into the playoffs has surprised me quite a bit.
Sebastian Thomas has been arguably the best player this season throughout the state. He alone gives the Hawks a chance to win every night. Whether it be scoring, passing, defending opposing guards, Thomas has taken a massive step forward this season and has been pretty much unstoppable.
Helio Sousa, Angel Sanchez, Sebastian Basilio, Jason Onye and a few new faces provide an excellent bunch behind Thomas, you would never know that there was any uncertainty heading into the year.
Division I should be a horse race between Hendricken and North Kingstown. The teams have the same record with one loss apiece, and NK’s loss was to Hendricken in a game that it could have certainly won. I’d be shocked to see another early exit like last year for Hendricken, I’m expecting it to come down to these two in both Division I and the open state tournament.
Next up is Pilgrim, who clinched a first round home playoff game in its thrilling win last week over Shea.
There was a lot of optimism heading into this season. Between a solid, experienced returning cast and the addition of Tyriek Weeks and Peter Kay, many felt that Pilgrim would be a contender in Division II.
The Pats had an average start to the season, but have come on strong as of late. I’m assuming its due to the team getting familiar with one another more than anything, but Pilgrim now looks poised to make a serious run at a Division title.
Pilgrim has dropped some tough games, but has also beaten second-place Barrington and almost topped first-place Portsmouth. Pilgrim has to take another step forward, and if it does, then it may be a dark horse in this division.
Toll Gate lost its big three from last season, a year in which it shocked the state and advanced to the elite eight of the open tournament. The Titans have had an up and down year, and dropped three of their last four in the regular season.
Although Toll Gate has a chance to compete for a Division title, my expectations are modest heading into the tournament.
Pilgrim was one of the top teams in Division III heading into the year, and despite a rocky start, has reclaimed its spot as one of the top contenders after winning its final four regular season games.
Pilgrim had arguably the top defense in the division last year, and remained dominant this time around with largely the same team.
What ultimately held the Pats back last year was its scoring woes, regularly falling flat offensively and relying heavily on its ability to shut down opposing offenses. Although Pilgrim has improved a little bit and has three or four girls that can shoot, it will have to have all scorers producing at once to make a serious run toward the top.
Pilgrim is right in the mix in Division III, but like I said, it will need its absolute best to get over the top.
Toll Gate will sneak into the tournament with the last seed. The Titans are a scrappy bunch that has hovered around .500 all year. It’s pretty unlikely that they seriously contend for a title, but crazier things have happened.
The defending champion Pilgrim won its season finale last week to clinch the top seed in Division III, and is the clear front runner at the moment.
Sure, West Warwick is always in the mix and managed to tie the Pats in one of their meetings (Pilgrim won the other), but I really don’t see the Wizards pulling off the upset in a three-game series. In a single game, sure, but not in a series. Pilgrim is just too deep and experienced at this point.
Although the Pats don’t have the star power of years past, they are efficient in all areas and have so many capable bodies to throw out there. Anything but a state title would be a disappointment.
Last week I discussed Hendricken’s chances at a Division I crown, and felt that the Hawks were right in the mix.
Although Hendricken has a shot, I think that we should expect it to come down to Mount St. Charles and La Salle.
Hendricken has kept pace in the standings and has beaten some tough foes, but the Hawks went 0-4 against the Rams and Mounties by a combined score of 20-9. Like I stated above, if these were one-game rounds, then I would like the Hawks’ chances much more, but Mount and La Salle have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack at this point.