PAWTUCKET – St. Raphael was confronted with a harsh reality following Saturday’s 55-52 buzzer-beating loss to Bishop Hendricken.
Not only do the Saints have to win out, but they also find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to rely on other teams in hopes of cracking the Division I tournament. Bids are extended to the top 10 finishers. At the moment, SRA’s 5-10 mark is good for 11th best, meaning hope was not completely lost when Hendricken’s Kazre Cummings came down and nailed a 3-pointer on the left wing as time expired.
The main obstacle in St. Raphael’s playoff pursuit is tiebreakers. The Saints have lost to all three of the teams directly in front of them in the overall league standings – East Providence (7-7), Cranston East (7-8) and Hope (6-8). Even if Tom “Saar” Sorrentine’s bunch were to take care of business the rest of the way against Woonsocket, Mount Pleasant and La Salle, it may not prove enough to gain postseason admittance.
Depending on how things shake down, the Saints may look back on what transpired Friday night and Saturday and kick themselves for letting a golden opportunity slip by. Letting a double-digit lead slip away to a four-win Smithfield team before bowing in overtime was enough of a canker sore to deal with, but then came Saturday’s heartbreaking conclusion.
Tied at 52-all after senior Nick Mays hit 1-of-2 at the free throw line with 6.3 seconds remaining, the Hawks placed the ball in Cummings’ hands. The senior had attacked the basket all game long, meaning the last thing on Sorrentine’s mind was to extend the defense and secure the perimeter.
Wouldn’t you know that Cummings, who received the inbounds pass, streaked into the frontcourt and unleashed a long-range shot that was on-target and pure. The 3-ball capped off a 19-point effort for Cummings, who was mobbed by his teammates as the final horn sounded. The trey was also the only jump shot he converted during a game that began Wednesday night but was halted with 6:36 remaining after an unhealthy number of players began slipping and falling on the Alumni Hall surface.
“We were in zone and looking to pack it in,” said Sorrentine when asked about his defensive configuration on the last possession. “(Cummings) is more of a driver.”
The Hawks were protecting a 42-40 lead when the game resumed Saturday afternoon. The home team scored the first four points of the concluding portion to go up 44-42. That was followed by a stretch that saw the lead change hands seven times with the Hawks grabbing a 52-51 lead after William Parmlee (four points) scored down low.
St. Raphael had multiple chances down the stretch but couldn’t cash in. Right after Parmlee’s hoop, the Saints had three cracks to retake the lead, all of which went unanswered. Hendricken turned the ball over at 1:15 and was called for a carrying violation with 37.2 ticks left, but sandwiched in between was a costly throw away by the Saints.
A 1-and-1 miss by Hendricken’s William Tavares (11 points) provided St. Raphael with another chance with 23.2 seconds flashing on the scoreboard. The Saints kept the possession at 9.4 seconds after senior Charles Correa was tangled up in the paint and the officials signaled for a jump ball. On the out-of-bounds play, Correa threw the ball into sophomore Alez Zhoa, who immediately turned and fed a cutting Mays.
Stepping to the line with a chance to put his team up a point, Mays missed the first free throw before making the second. Needing to come up with one more defensive stop in order to push the game into overtime, the Saints could only watch in horror as Cummings came down and nailed a shot that could come back to haunt the Purple & Gold.
“We’ll know by Thursday whether we have a shot or not,” Sorrentine stated when asked about his team’s playoff fate.
Zhoa led the Saints with 16 points while Correa finished with eight. Senior Jordan Peguero returned to the lineup against the Hawks after sitting out the Smithfield game with a leg injury, one he sustained during the Wednesday portion of the Hendricken game. SRA managed to get to the line seven times while Hendricken’s Tavares by himself attempted nine freebies.