PAWTUCKET â€“ Rest is always welcome â€“ just so as long as rust doesnâ€™t start to form.
Eleven days will have elapsed since St. Raphael Academyâ€™s last game â€“ a tough-to-swallow 77-75 loss to Coventry in the Division I quarterfinals on Feb. 21 â€“ and the next time the Saints participate in a meaningful affair. Their reintroduction to spirited competition, complete with three referees and a neutral setting, is set for Friday night against Westerly High in the new all-inclusive state tournament at the Providence Career & Technical Academy Fieldhouse.
For most of the elite athletes in the state, including several with local ties, Fridayâ€™s New England Interscholastic Indoor Track & Field Championships signifies the end of the winter season.
For a select few like Central Falls senior Aleide Fernandes, itâ€™s just one more meet to prepare for the inaugural New Balance Nationals the following week.
A dozen teams from the Blackstone Valley will be shooting for the same goal â€” a strong postseason run that hopefully leads them to a state championship â€” these next two weeks when the R.I. playoffs take flight.
In two of the three division tournaments, there are clear favorites â€“ unbeaten Barrington High is the team to beat in Division I, while powerful Middletown High leads the way in Division III.
But Division II appears to be wide-open, with a handful of teams capable of rising above the pack and winning the title.
PROVIDENCE â€” Regular season dual-meet results donâ€™t carry over into the tournament season. Each wrestler, no matter how big his reputation and how long his list of accomplishments, must begin anew when the opening whistle sounds to start a tournament match.
Thatâ€™s the beauty of this sport, which focuses on a team aspect during the dual-meet season. The emphasis changes to individual results during the postseason.
As the regular season winds down, the discussion for postseason awards and other laurels heats up. Suddenly the office water cooler or neighborhood establishment becomes the spot to discuss and dissect the merits of potential candidates, while those given autonomy to cast a vote sit down with pen, paper and DVD player, study tea leaves and rub the Magic 8-Ball before filling out the ballot.
PAWTUCKET -- When Steve Reynolds took over the reins as Tolman Highâ€™s hockey coach in the winter of â€™08, he inherited a team that not only graduated a talented senior class that reached the Division II quarterfinals the previous season, but was short on upperclassmen and bodies.
He also had his share of first-year players on his 16-player roster that season, and one of them was a familiar name who starred for the Tigersâ€™ football and wrestling teams the past couple of seasons, Kyle Coutu.
PAWTUCKET --- If Tolman High and the Johnston/North Providence co-op team end up meeting in two weekends in the Division III semifinals, it should make for a truly entertaining best-of-three series.
For the second time in seven days, the two teams battled tooth and nail in an exciting high school game, but unlike their meeting last Saturday, this contest didnâ€™t end with a winner or a loser.
NORTH SMITHFIELD --- A very difficult season for Lincoln High came to a rough end on Wednesday afternoon at the hands of a tough non-tough team -- St. Johnâ€™s High of Shrewsbury, Mass.
The 12th-ranked team in the Eastern Mass. polls showed the small gathering at the Rhode Island Sports Center why they are among the teams vying for a berth in their stateâ€™s Division IA â€˜Super Eightâ€™ tournament by skating to a 6-1 victory over the Lions.
Over the years, the final weekend of the high school hockey regular season had always featured plenty of drama and storylines. Regular-season titles on the line. Teams pursuing higher seeds. Others fighting for late playoff berths.
Unfortunately for local fans, there wonâ€™t be much suspense this weekend.
A big reason is because only five boysâ€™ teams from the area qualified for their respective tournaments. Four of the five teams that didnâ€™t make it were long eliminated from postseason consideration, while a fifth, Lincoln, saw its run at a playoff berth come to an end last weekend.
PROVIDENCE (AP) â€” Notre Dame appeared to be in total control, then all of a sudden the Fighting Irish were lucky time ran out on Marshon Brooks.
Ben Hansbrough scored a career-high 32 points and Tim Abromaitis had a season-high 28 as No. 9 Notre Dame hung on for a 94-93 win over struggling Providence on Wednesday night despite a Big East-record 52 points by Brooks.
The Irish (22-5, 11-4 Big East) are off to their best start ever in 11 seasons under coach Mike Brey. Notre Dame, in second place in the conference, has won eight of nine.