PAWTUCKET — As is normally the case, Tom “Saar” Sorrentine uses “Senior Night” as a chance to shine the light on those seniors who normally take a backseat to more acclaimed teammates. For Newon Sendolo, Franklin Batista, Ben Pillsbury, Austin Hill and Calvin Contreras, that meant a chance to make a rare start, doing so with playoff position hanging in the balance against perennial power Bishop Hendricken.
Little did the veteran SRA coach expect that come game’s end, the same quintet that was out there for the opening tap would mop up what was a tough night for anyone sporting a Purple & Gold uniform. Buoyed by a stout defense, the Hawks ran roughshod over the Saints on Wednesday night at an overflowing Wellness Center, 61-46.
The loss hurts St. Raphael, which saw a golden opportunity to host a playoff game in the Division I divisional tournament slip through the cracks. Instead the Saints will now head on the road for Monday’s quarterfinal round, the likely destination Coventry, a club that dialed up 11 3-pointers in a 92-72 win over the Purple & Gold on Jan. 31.
“It’s been a tough few weeks,” sighed Sorrentine, no doubt referencing the 3-3 finish to what was a 13-5 regular season.
How the Hawks won this clash of parochial schools was quite elementary. The driving lanes that have done wonders for Cesar Mejia and Charles Correa were all but sealed up. That turned the Saints into a jumpshooting outfit, which translated into a frosty 17-for-54 performance from the field.
“They are so dangerous, so our goal was to prevent penetration and force them to shoot over the top,” said Hawks head coach Jamal Gomes. “Our guys stuck to the game plan and we had a very good defensive night.”
The Saints’ offensive shortcomings proved to cut even deeper, as the team’s top three scorers – Correa, Mejia and Trevor Vasey – combined for just 24 points and one 3-pointer. In the first half the trio produced only eight points. Correa was the lone Saint to register double figures as the sophomore finished with 10 points. Mejia added seven points and eight rebounds while Vasey scored seven points.
“They (the Hawks) were packing it in and not letting us get to the hoop,” Sorrentine said. “Plus we weren’t working the ball to get a good shot. I thought we could have, but then we started launching (jumpers).”
The first half was marred by sloppy play as neither side could find a rhythm offensively. The telling play came right before halftime, as Hendricken’s defense swarmed the perimeter, forcing Batista to take a tough 3-pointer that didn’t even graze the net. Despite the woes, the Saints trailed by just seven (24-17) at halftime.
The only time St. Raphael sustained any sort of success came in the opening minutes of the second half, as Jazz Robinson (nine points) helped key a 10-2 run with three baskets and an assist to a cutting Davon Robertson. The Saints went ahead 27-26 on an elbow jumper by Vasey, but that would mark the final time the home team enjoyed the lead.
SRA then went into a deep funk, turning the ball over four times in five possessions. Hendricken’s DaJuan Ives was the primary beneficiary to St. Raphael’s reckless ways, the senior scoring virtually all of his game-high 21 points in transition. Corey Palumbo added 15 points for the Hawks, swishing three 3-pointers.
“I thought our defense got our engine going on offense,” said Gomes, his Hawks also wrapping up at 13-5, which tells you how important this contest was for both sides. “We were able to get some transition buckets. We were very fortunate to come in here and defend the way we did and come away with a victory.”
The Saints trailed 36-27 with 8:58 remaining before the Hawks cranked things up for one final push. The misses from deep continued for SRA, resulting in easy fastbreak opportunities for its opponent. The result was either a finish at the rim by Ives or a trip to the foul line. By the time the Saints realized what had hit them, they trailed 51-38 with 3:01 left.
“We didn’t have anybody who was hot,” said Sorrentine.
BISHOP HENDRICKEN (61): Steven Bevilacqua 2 0-1 4, DaJuan Ives 6 9-11 21, Justin Kolenda 0 0-0 0, Lee Messier 3 0-0 6, Julian Mardenli 0 0-0 0, Jorge Mercado 0 0-0 0, Cory Palumbo 5 2-2 15, Samuel Fradin 1 0-0 2, Connor McMullen 1 0-0 2, Marlon Coustard 0 0-2 0, Kazre Cummings 0 0-0 0, Nick Bodeau 1 0-0 2, Tim Lyons 4 1-1 9, Rilwan Ilumoka 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 12-17 61.
ST. RAPHAEL (46): Terrence Manning 0 0-0 0, Newon Sendolo 0 0-0 0, Cesar Mejia 3 1-3 7, Jordan Peguero 1 2-3 4, Trevor Vasey 3 1-1 7, Franklin Batista 0 1-2 1, Jazz Robinson 4 1-2 9, Ben Pillsbury 1 0-0 2, Austin Hill 0 0-0 0, Davon Robertson 2 0-0 4, Calvin Contreras 1 0-0 2, Charles Correa 2 5-6 10. Totals: 17 11-17 46.
Halftime: BH 24-17.
Three-point field goals: BH 3 (Cory Palumbo 3); SRA 1 (Charles Correa).
JV: BH 78-54.