The Cranston East unified basketball team put on a show this past weekend when it topped Woonsocket in the Division I Championship 32-19, claiming its first D1 title since 2014 and its fifth title overall.
“It was important for them to go out there and be courageous. They had not been able to play in a game like that in the regular season so for them to go out there and perform the way they did was great and will help them after (high school). It could have been easy for them to back down but they wouldn’t, some of our kids are small but they didn’t care, they kept trying,” said East coach Stephen Hallas.
Team chemistry played an important role in the Bolts’ success this season, and Hallas was proud of the way his players rallied together to improve every day at practice and during games.
“They treat each other as one. They see each other in the hallways, they eat lunch together, it’s really special to see. The way they played together and as a team was really special, the way they grew as the season went on … they were nervous at the beginning of the year to get out there, but throughout the season their confidence grew. They leaned on each other and grew together as a team, I was really impressed,” said Hallas, who admitted that he was surprised at how well the Bolts played against other Division I competition on the big stage. “Playing in Division 1, I was not expecting this … I couldn’t believe how well they performed, they stepped up. I hope that now, they can go into a job interview in the future and not feel those nerves, they have that confidence and that’s what this is all about.”
Unified sports have continued to grow here in Rhode Island since its inception nearly a decade ago, and Hallas hopes to see the numbers continue to rise. Considering the success of the 2019 championship win, Hallas expects to see a strong response from the Cranston East community.
“Having (unified sports) is very important. It’s important for these kids to break down that wall and continue to treat each other well and with respect. Hopefully now that we have this championship, that will expand the interest in the school and we can get more partners and more athletes to come out,” said Hallas, who also credited his assistant coaches and player-partners for their help this year. “My support staff was very important to me as well as the partners. If we don’t have kids like these ones that are willing to step up and pay it forward, then none of this would happen. I am very thankful for the partners.”