What a big year for our basketball teams

Posted 2/28/23

What a basketball season for our teams at Beacon Communications. In the five years I have been here, this has been by far the most successful as three of our teams reached the division championships …

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What a big year for our basketball teams


What a basketball season for our teams at Beacon Communications. In the five years I have been here, this has been by far the most successful as three of our teams reached the division championships with two taking home wins.

The Johnston Panthers came back to beat Middletown to claim the Division II title on Sunday, just a few years after falling in the big game at CCRI prior to the pandemic.

The Panthers finished the regular season in first place but there was some doubt heading into the tournament. Johnston dropped a pair of late season games and seemed to be cooling off at the wrong time.

Well, come Sunday, Johnston was where it belonged and got the job done after beating a very good St. Ray’s team in the semifinals.

Derek Salvatore was a force on both ends of the floor for Johnston. He is the heart and soul of the team and one of the best point guards in the state, if not the best. He played just like that, and completely took the game over in the fourth quarter to guide the comeback.

Neari Vasquez came up with the biggest shot of the game on a 3-pointer with just over three minutes left. Anthony Corsinetti overcame a slow start to come up with some big plays, as did Camani Batista. The Panthers were a step behind through the first three quarters but would come roaring back to get the job done.

Now, it’s time for the open state tournament. Johnston should advance to the Elite 8, but from there, it will get interesting.

Between teams like La Salle, Hendricken, Central, and even Middletown again, there will be some stiff competition. It’s hard to see a team other than the Rams or Hawks taking it all, but Johnston absolutely has enough to be a dark horse in this race.

The Pilgrim girls also took first place in the regular season and proved to be worthy by running away with the Division III title over Narragansett.

We all anticipated a defensive battle and that is exactly what we got. The Pats struggled throughout the season to score so they relied on their ability to shut teams down. That came in handy last Friday as they held the Mariners to just 19 points.

Gianna Ramos was once again the tone setter in the paint while Faith Meade was the go-to ball handler and led the team on offense. Amaya Coffie continued to be an elite perimeter defender and had her moments as well. The key players played like key players.

This Pilgrim team has been through a lot over the past few years. Between the pandemic, being bounced around divisions, having a winless season and playoff years, the seniors including Ramos and Meade had seen it all.

To see them get an opportunity to play on the big stage and walk away with a title is a fantastic story. I’m not sure if anyone would have picked them to win the DIII crown heading into the winter. I figured they’d be competitive considering the experience, but I did not think a championship was the ceiling.

As always, the question will be how the returning girls perform next season. Pilgrim should stay in Division III as its seniors were so important. The team will be rebuilding to an extent, but this championship run should pay dividends when it comes to experience.

Then, Hendricken. What an incredible game.

La Salle took control early, but the Hawks would come back to even things in the fourth quarter. It felt like we were going to get a classic Hendricken comeback win, but the Rams were the ones that came up with the key play late to grab the Division I Championship.

Hendricken’s stud duo of Eze Wali and Azmar Abdullah were fantastic, but ultimately, in my opinion, La Salle’s top player Kelvin Odih and the size of Rams was the difference. The Hawks just could not consistently find their way to the basket. Relying on the long ball just is not a reliable way to win, especially against an elite team like La Salle.

Hendricken won in overtime in the regular season, the Rams took this rematch on a buzzer beater in the fourth quarter. It feels inevitable that these will be the last two teams standing in two weeks at the Ryan Center. Who will win? Who knows.

For Hendricken, I think the biggest thing will be to find a way to create more open shots from short and midrange. It is clear that La Salle’s size is going to be too much in the paint, and again, you can’t expect to win by shooting 3-pointers all night. Hendricken played the way it has all year, which has obviously worked, but now we will see if it can adjust.

We had a few other teams have big years as well.

The Cranston West boys returned to the playoffs and although they lost to Burrillville in the opening round, they should be happy with the season they had.

After missing the postseason in 2021-22, West got off to a slow, 2-5 start this season. However, it would then win six of its next seven games to get back into the playoffs. It was a great turnaround that should carry over into next year.

The Cranston West girls also made the playoffs despite graduating nine seniors, and the East girls also saw postseason action after getting a new coach. The Johnston girls reached the quarterfinals and nearly won, while the Toll Gate girls advanced to the semis and had a chance to advance.

We have 11 basketball teams here at Beacon Communications. Eight made the playoffs, four made the semis, three made the finals, two won it all. What a season.

pitch, column, basketball


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