SPORTS

Down and out no more

Posted 3/3/21

It has been a wild few weeks with the high school sports playoffs, as they normally are in the winter. Of the three seasons, I'd say winter is typically the most frantic, and in a year like this, it has been chaotic to say the least. One thing that has

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SPORTS

Down and out no more

Posted

It has been a wild few weeks with the high school sports playoffs, as they normally are in the winter. Of the three seasons, I’d say winter is typically the most frantic, and in a year like this, it has been chaotic to say the least.

One thing that has been great to see here the past few weeks has been the number of teams that made turnarounds.

The start of the winter season, for lack of a better word, was a mess. Between the late start, waiting to see if sports would be approved, teams needing to quarantine, players having to be tested and the paperwork that had to be submitted on short notice. I was surprised that more teams didn’t start off slow.

But many teams did, including some that were expected to have big years. It was all part of the process though, and some of our brightest rosters looked down and out midway through the season.

First, the Bishop Hendricken hockey team.

The Hawks started off with two losses early on in their schedule and midway through the season weren’t sure if they’d reach the playoffs. Hendricken hockey is always supposed to reach the postseason, and although there was plenty of time to turn things around, nothing was guaranteed for the team at the halfway point.

Then the Hawks got rolling.

Hendricken would then roll to a 7-2 record to finish the regular season, beating some of the very best teams in the state, then carry that momentum into the playoffs. Now, they’re in the state championship and have a real chance to win it. It really is a 50-50 bet if you ask me.

Next, the Cranston East girls basketball team.

The Lady Bolts got off to a pretty rough start, losing their first four contests. The team had a ton, and I mean a ton, of adversity to overcome. Between free falling in the standings, having only one senior starting, even seeing much of the roster being forced to quarantine at one point.

Nothing seemed to be going right for East, and the girls had to win their final five games to make the postseason.

Not only did they pull it off, but they even earned homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs and topped visiting Chariho.

Although their playoff run was cut short at the hands of top-seeded Westerly, the fact that the Bolts were in that position is outstanding.

In a year like this one, it would have been easy for the team to close down shop after falling to 0-4. I rarely, if ever, give a team an excuse to quit, but this may be one of those times that I do. If you are 0-4, seemingly out of the race, and have to deal with the pandemic on top of it? That’s tough.

But the girls hung in there and gutted out a big time run. Also, these were all league wins. None of those were layups, all required tough, efficient play, and East did it. Kudos to them.

Also, like I mentioned, four of the starters are returning next year. Imagine what kind of edge this second half run will give them next year and beyond?

Lastly, the Johnston girls basketball team.

With a Division I commit in Sarah Bandoma, as well as sharp shooter Tori Viau and other pieces like Emily Iannuccilli and Abby Clesas, the Lady Panthers were ready to make a splash and compete for a playoff spot.

With three games remaining on their schedule in the regular season, they had yet to win a game and also looked to be down and out.

What made matters even worse was the number of close games they were in. This was not a team that was getting beat up on night in and night out, they came within arms reach of beating a handful of teams including Cranston West. If their luck was just a little bit better in the early going, they could have easily been a top squad come playoff time.

But back to the schedule. The Panthers went on to win their final three contests of the season. Sure, they came up short in the preliminary round, but very much like East, the fact that they won their final three games in a row and came out swinging in the playoffs is nothing to sneeze at.

This winter season has been like no other that I have been a part of. Each season goes by fast … they never go by slow. But considering this was a shortened season to begin with and there was so much going on, it went by in a blink of an eye.

For these three teams to hang in there the way they did when the going got rough, sometimes very rough, is a credit to the kids and the coaching staffs.

The kids had to work their butts off while staying motivated, the coaches also had to make sure they bought in as well. They did it and it was great to see. I will be writing about the football season quite a bit in the next few weeks, so just a fair warning, you may get sick of it.

At this point, football has been cleared for the third season and teams have already begun practicing. It’s weird to think that football will be played when the temps are rising and the days are getting longer. Very weird.

But I am so excited. Of course, I am happy for the kids to have their season and to have a chance to play. Let me be selfish for a moment here, though. I am so excited.

Football has always been my favorite sport. Whether it be playing, watching or covering, for me, nothing beats it.

Friday night lights are Friday night lights. I don’t care about the time of year, I am just excited that we are now just a few weeks away.

Especially with the Patriots having a down year in the fall. It was not exactly a fall football season to remember. So now, we get to have another chance at it on the high school level. We get to keep scratching that football itch.

I look forward to getting back on the sidelines in the coming weeks, can’t wait.

My Pitch, sports

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