My Pitch

Hawks, Bolts deliver in opener

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A running theme throughout the fall sports season was the fact that it was my first fall in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, the theme will continue to run through the winter, as this is also my first winter season at the helm.

Like most sports, the buzz heading into this season for boys basketball has surrounded Bishop Hendricken. The Hawks have won the past three Division I State Titles, and are once again the favorite in the early going.

I was at the Hendricken-Cranston East opener last week, and it was a blast to watch.

The Hawks and the Bolts are considered two of the top three or four squads in the state, and I could see why after last Friday’s game. I am still learning the teams obviously, but from what I saw, it would not surprise me to see these two teams meet up in the postseason with everything on the line.

What stood out to me the most for each club is the depth. Each team ran 8-10 players deep, and never seemed to slow down when the subs were called in.

For Hendricken, the obvious guys stepped up. Bobby Fiorito scored 12 points and looked to be the best all-around player on the court … that’s not saying that he is because there were so many great players that night, but for that game specifically, Fiorito was just that.

Hendricken’s Andre De Los Santos was a grinder throughout the contest, and was quickly public enemy No. 1 in the Cranston gym with his trash talk and physicality. Tyriek Weeks came up big with three 3-pointers, while Angel Sanchez and Sebastian Thomas each stepped up in their respective roles.

Although East’s Aireus Raspberry didn’t light up the score sheet, he was clearly a freakish athlete that proved that the hype surrounding him was real. Nelvin Blanco and Andrew Khvang were impressive as well alongside him.

Both teams are supremely talented, experienced and hungry … they are also coached by two of the top leaders in the state in Jamal Gomes and Michael Juarez.

I’ll admit, to say that these teams will meet again isn’t a scorching hot take by any means. Everyone in Rhode Island expects these two teams to be in the mix throughout the year … but I am just simply saying that I am now expecting it.

Not only am I expecting it, but I am absolutely hoping for it as well. I had high hopes going into the contest, and although Hendricken pulled away with it in the second half and mounted a 14-point win, this game was much closer than that.

What I enjoyed about this game was the two types of teams.

Hendricken, the elite private school that is always a well-oiled machine … versus Cranston East, the scrappy, tough school that likes to play smashmouth basketball.

That’s not an indictment on either school, Hendricken proved to be plenty tough while East proved to be plenty disciplined … those are just the elements that each school thrives on.

A debate that I’ll admit, really started to wear on me throughout the fall season was the private school versus public school argument that will continue to wage on.

Should private schools be allowed to compete with public schools? Is the recruiting within private schools unfair? What will it take for an even playing field?

What this matchup shows is that two teams coming from different backgrounds can compete against one another with each club having a legitimate chance to win.

Is it a sport-specific issue? Maybe, but at least we won’t have to deal with it on the basketball court. Like I said in the fall, I do believe that there is an issue when it comes to recruitment … but I also think that people are too quick to grasp for it when their team comes up short.

I could be totally wrong in my prediction, especially considering I have yet to see many other teams compete this winter. But, I just feel that these two teams will meet up again when the stakes are even higher.

Both teams are elite in talent, experience and coaching. They also played a real intense, physical game that made the stands rock and was as thrilling of a regular season game as you’ll see.

I don’t see a team making it to the big show before these two, barring a rematch early on in the postseason. I fully expect these two clubs to meet again, and will be the first in line to watch if they do.

Happy basketball season, folks.

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