Three months of regular-season games have now boiled down to three weeks of state tournament action.
And for five of the six Blackstone Valley teams that qualified for the playoffs, the âsecond seasonâ commences tonight at arenas throughout the state.
While the opening weekend of the postseason had long been reserved for the quarterfinal-round series, that wonât be the case this winter in the new State Championship playoffs, which along with the Division I tourney, jumps right into its semifinals this weekend.
NORTH SMITHFIELD â After a rather sloppy initial half, one in which it registered 15 turnovers and had serious issues netting a bucket, North Smithfield High head coach Alisha Brannon took her troops aside and told them simply to calm down and think.
âBasically, we have a tendency to rush on offense, and the first half was a classic example,â she said. âThey try to pass too quickly or dribble past (defenders). At halftime, I told them to quit rushing and spread the floor.
WARWICK â There were a few critical reasons why Shea High suffered a disappointing 63-52 loss to Rogers High in the R.I. Open Tournament's âRound of 16â at the Community College of Rhode Island-Warwick's Vincent A. Cullen Field House on Tuesday night.
Heart and will weren't among them.
Instead, the eighth-seeded Raiders issued 19 turnovers, including eight in the initial seven minutes of the final stanza, and dropped only 13 of 21 free throws (61.9 percent), as they closed their campaign at 18-6 overall.
PROVIDENCE â In preparation for Tuesdayâs game against the Jim Calhoun-less UConn Huskies, Ed Cooley took his club to the movies. The screening didnât include popcorn and soda, rather visual evidence to demonstrate just how far Cooleyâs PC Friars have come from a mediocre showing in an exhibition game to this past weekendâs last-second escape job at DePaul.
PROVIDENCE â Itâs just not the players who burn with desire, clamoring to face the very best. Coaches too relish the opportunity to match wits and strategies whenever thereâs a noted leader of the pack residing in the opposite corner.
When it comes to predicting who will play for the three state championships on March 10 at the Ryan Center, it shouldnât take a lot of thought.
In Division I, all signs point to the two unbeaten teams, defending champion La Salle and rival Bay View. In Division II, you can take your pick among the Northâs Moses Brown (17-1) and the Southâs Narragansett and Rogers (each 16-2), and in Division III, unbeaten Juanita Sanchez and defending champ Middletown (16-3) are the clear-cut favorites.
Call it a case of good things happening to good people. Realistically, perhaps we should step back, take a big-picture view, and draw the conclusion that Mike Roose is so adept at his chosen profession that no one should be shocked by the Cumberland nativeâs meteoric rise through the Boston Red Soxâs player support chain.
PROVIDENCE â When the final second ticked off the clock in the 195-pound championship final, Cumberland High senior grappler Tom LaCroix broke free of his opponent's last-ditch clutch, leaped into the air and pumped his fist in jubilation.
His teammates, most of whom were on the mat's borders anxiously watching, immediately mobbed veteran head coach Steve Gordon, then did the same to LaCroix.
WARWICK â Tolman head coach Mike Kayata didnât mince words when asked about how Bishop Hendricken transformed a one-point halftime lead into a 63-42 final Saturday night. Simply put the Hawks were cooking with gas while the Tigers, who with the loss were eliminated from the open state tournament, were just trying to stay afloat.
âThey exploited us,â Kayata deadpanned.
KINGSTON â Cumberland High junior Courtney Kent explained Saturday afternoon that she hadnât really âtaperedâ for these R.I. Interscholastic Swimming Championships.
In essence, that just means she hadnât cut down on the amount of practice yardage she swims day-in and day-out as a member of Crimson Aquatics, based out of Cambridge. A slice in distance, a swimmer always hopes, results in faster times due to the bodyâs ability to recuperate.