Hawks have their way with Townies in D-I boys' hoops quarters

Hendricken throttles East Providence, locals await state tourney bid

By Mike Rego
Posted 2/27/24

There's no shame in having Bishop Hendricken as your nemesis in boys' basketball. After all, the Hawks are the record holders of 23 state and league championships. It's just East Providence High …

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Hawks have their way with Townies in D-I boys' hoops quarters

Hendricken throttles East Providence, locals await state tourney bid


There's no shame in having Bishop Hendricken as your nemesis in boys' basketball. After all, the Hawks are the record holders of 23 state and league championships. It's just East Providence High School, earlier this week at least, surely wished it had made a better showing of itself.

For the fourth time in the last five postseasons, Hendricken defeated the Townies, this time in the quarterfinals of the 2024 Division I Championship Tournament as the host Hawks handed EPHS a 68-39 throttling Tuesday night, Feb. 27, in Warwick.

Fourth-seeded Hendricken advances to the semifinals and a date opposite unbeaten and top-seeded Classical, Sunday, March 3, at Rhode Island College's Murray Center.

The fifth-seeded Townies, who saw their overall league record fall to 13-7, now await a berth in the upcoming Open State Championship Tournament. East Providence entered the league playoff quarters seventh in the state power rankings. The field for this winter's Open Tourney was decreased from 16 to 12 teams.

Hendricken bounced the Townies from last winter's state playoffs by seven in the semifinals. In the 2021-22 postseason, the Hawks beat EP by 10 in the state quarterfinals. And in the '19-20 league semis, Hendricken handed the locals a 12-point setback.

"I think Hendricken would have beaten any team by 30 tonight, that's how well they shot the ball," said EPHS head coach Joe Andrade said after the Townies' 29-point loss to the Hawks this time around. "I don't think they shot it this well all season. But they're also very structured, very fundamentally sound."

The hometown side spotted its guest the opening bucket Tuesday, a Christian Torres running layup, then would not trail again after draining a 3-pointer. The triple sparked a 10-0 Hendricken run. The Hawks would eventually build a 20-13 lead at the end of the first period.

The next eight minutes were challenging for both teams on the offensive end. Hendricken would take a 30-20 advantage to intermission, courtesy of a couple of East Providence missteps late. The 10-point spread seemed almost insurmountable, especially after how the second ended.

First, after a Hawks' miss with 26 seconds left and the 30-second shot clock off, the Townies did not hold the ball for a final shot. Instead, a missed jumper with 12 seconds off was rebounded Hendricken, which in turn did the same thing. It missed a jumper with about three seconds to go. The Townies, however, fumbled the rebound right back to the Hawks' sharp-shooting freshman Michael D'Ambra. The left-hander calmly and quickly drained a deep 3 to give his side its first double-figure lead of the night.

"Being down 30-20 instead of 27-20 or 24-20 made it a different game," said Andrade. "We don't take the last shot, and then they hit the three at the buzzer, I think totally changed the game."

Things got no better for East Providence in the second half. The Townies, whose shot selection during the first half left plenty to be desired, finally attempted to get the ball inside where center Kenaz Ochgwu made some hay in the third period. The senior scored eight points in the quarter, including a rousing dunk off a fine hustle play by mate Tyler Gomez, but it wasn't nearly enough to fend off the Hawks, who led 49-31 heading into the fourth.

Hendricken only extended its lead over the final eight minutes. Just 10 seconds in, the margin hit 20 (51-31) for the first time on a layup. It later grew to a night-high 32 (68-36), again fittingly, on another layup with about 90 seconds to go.

Prior to the game, Andrade expected Hendricken, which gave 70 points to the Townies in a five-point win also at home during the regular season on January 18, to be much more stout defensively in the playoffs. They were. Tuesday's game was much more physical and more ragged than their meeting six weeks prior.

On the flip side, East Providence's on-ball defense wasn't up to par in the first half and all game really. The Townies allowed the Hawks to drop 15 layups, six alone in the first quarter and including a handful off the break as the locals took bad shots leading to counter fastbreaks. Hendricken also made seven 3s.

EP also did not make the most of its size and speed advantage in the paint. Ochgwu and Levi Jacobs got far fewer touches than necessary for the Townies to pull off the road playoff upset.

"Everything they do is hard. Hendricken plays hard 100 percent of the time," Andrade said. "They shot the ball well. They made shot after shot."

About the affect Hendricken's mix of zone and man defense had on his team, Andrade added, "I don't think it disrupted us. We just didn't call out the right play or we just heaved up ill-advised 3s."

Ochgwu was the only East Providence player to reach double digits, scoring 12. Derrell Liggins had eight, Jacobs and Brandyn Van Wagner five apiece, Torres four, Gomez three and Franklin Carela Lopez two.

If the Townies qualify for the 2024 Open State Tourney, which is basically a certainty, the preliminary round games are set for the site of the higher seed on March 8 or 9. The top four teams in the bracket get a bye directly into the quarterfinals. The five hosts the 12, six the 11, seven the 10 and eight the nine in the prelims.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.