My midseason takeaways

Posted 1/31/23

It’s hard to believe that we are midway through the winter season. Like every season, it is time to do midway evaluations of our clubs and programs.

Here are some of my big takeaways at the …

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My midseason takeaways


It’s hard to believe that we are midway through the winter season. Like every season, it is time to do midway evaluations of our clubs and programs.

Here are some of my big takeaways at the midway point of the 2022-23 winter sports season:

In terms of basketball, Hendricken is well ahead of the pack to this point and figures to be the odds on favorite to win both the Division I title and the open state championship in March.

With a win over La Salle then a lopsided defeat over Central last week, coupled with teams like Classical taking a step back this year, things are looking great for the Hawks who are unbeaten and continue to roll.

Azmar Abdullah and Eze Wali has been every bit the dynamic duo that we expected them to be while guys like Mike Paquette, Matt Brock and Devin Lynch have filled the roles that they have been asked to fill. Everything is working in the Hawks’ favor and they have taken it to the competition night in and night out. It’s hard to picture any team other than maybe La Salle getting a win over them at this point.

In Division II, Johnston has claimed first place and is a perfect 12-0 in league play as of this writing. The Panthers had a lot of momentum heading into this season with a strong core returning, but I’m not sure if anyone saw this level of dominance coming.

Between Derek Salvatore, Anthony Corsinetti and Neari Vasquez, Johnston boasts perhaps the best three-man core in the division. Recently, Hendricken transfer Camani Batista returned to the lineup and will be a big addition as well. Johnston is on a tear right now and has to be considered the favorite to win the Division II crown. The Panthers went 7-3 in the summer taking on some Division I teams, so they could absolutely be a factor in the open state tournament as well.

Another Division II team to watch out for is Cranston West, who has won two straight games to get to 5-4 in league play. The Falcons got off to a slow start this season and will have to be better to be a real contender, but the rest of the schedule is favorable and West needs to use it to build some momentum by playoff time. Don’t sleep on this group.

As for Pilgrim, who early on looked like it was poised to take a step forward and make a run at a Division II playoff berth; things have been tough as three of its starters have been lost for the season due to injuries.

That is what makes sports, especially at the high school level, so unforgiving. Every year, the roster resets and you only get kids for four years at a time. Any time an important player is lost for a lengthy period of time, it can put the entire program back a ways. We’ll see how Pilgrim responds next winter, but this season dealt it a tough blow.

As for girls basketball, it has been a great season for our teams.

Pilgrim has been a force in Division III and has been atop the standings since the early going, while Toll Gate recently took first place by half a game despite losing its top player in Adeline Areson.

Faith Meade and Gianna Ramos have been fantastic for the Pats while a crop of youngsters have played admirably behind them. Bri Simono has broken out as one of the top offensive producers in the division for the Titans. This rivalry will be a fun one to follow as the playoff races heat up in the next few weeks.

Then in Division IV, Johnston has also been strong. The Panthers were in fourth place heading into the week. The good news and the bad news for Johnston is that its lone losses were to the three teams ahead of it in the standings.

On the one hand, the Panthers have proven to be a playoff team at the midway point. On the other, they need to take another step forward to compete with those elite clubs. If the Panthers can take that next step in these final games, then maybe they will be dark horses come postseason play.

As expected, the Division I hockey race has been perhaps the most fun of any sport this winter.

Hendricken is fighting to maintain first place and looks to be in good position to make a playoff run and defend its title.

However, the Warwick co-op team has stolen the show and is all of a sudden a contender.

Charlie Clements, Richie Cavanaugh, Ryan Barlow, Ethan Pezzullo, and many other players have been outstanding and Warwick has perhaps the deepest lineup in the state. Experience will be the biggest question as this team exited early in the playoffs last year, but as of now, this team is legit.

Hendricken, Warwick, Cumberland, La Salle, this is going to come down to the wire.

As for some of our other teams, it looks like Hendricken, Cranston East and West and Toll Gate wrestling will all have grapplers competing for spots at the state championship. Hendricken track is also shaping up to have another big finish, as well as its swim team, which is coming off a disappointing state championship loss last year.

We’ll see how things shake out here the next few weeks, but as you all know, it goes by fast and before you know it, we will be in the thick of the tournaments. See you there.

pitch, column, sports


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