Hoops season ends for East Providence entries

Bay View reaches girls' Open semis; EPHS girls struggle, boys finish surprisingly good slate

By Mike Rego
Posted 3/19/24

The 2023-24 Rhode Island Interscholastic League high school basketball season came to a close this past weekend, the last of the teams with local ties, Bay View, falling in the girls' Open State …

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Hoops season ends for East Providence entries

Bay View reaches girls' Open semis; EPHS girls struggle, boys finish surprisingly good slate


The 2023-24 Rhode Island Interscholastic League high school basketball season came to a close this past weekend, the last of the teams with local ties, Bay View, falling in the girls' Open State Tournament final four played at the University of Rhode Island's Ryan Center.

The Bengals fell behind by 10 points in the early going of their semifinal outing against Barrington Saturday, March 16, and could never recover. The Eagles eventually rolled to a 44-29 victory. Barrington raced to a 14-4 lead at the end of the first quarter and remained up by 10 (24-14) before taking a 13-point lead into the final period.

The next afternoon, March 17, the Eagles faced a similar fate in their contest with Moses Brown for the state championship also at URI. The Quakers' defense smothered Barrington so much so they lead 36-9 at the end of three quarters. The Eagles made a spirited charge over the last eight minutes, but Moses Brown still eased to a 48-32 victory and the Quakers' second RIIL state title in program history. The other also came at the expense of Barrington, 55-51 to close the 2017-18 campaign.

For the Bengals, their season came to a close with a 17-6 overall record, including a pair of wins over the Eagles during the regular season: 52-49 in Barrington on December 21 and 39-38 at home in Riverside on February 16. Bay View was the No. 2 seed in the Division I league playoffs, but was upset by seventh-seeded LaSalle in the quarterfinals, 59-57. Third-seeded Barrington, likewise, upset top-seeded North Kingstown for the D-I championship, 50-40.

The Bengals were seeded fifth in the Open State Tourney, beating 12th-seeded West Warwick of D-II in the opening round, 53-29. Bay View next nudged past fellow D-I side and fourth-seeded Ponaganset, 44-43, in the quarters before falling to Barrington.

The 2023-24 Bay View roster included Lailah Valles, Madison Gomes, Amelia Polichetti, Ava Wasylow, Victoria Vieira, Gianna Paolino, Jamie Andrews, Jacqueline Buffery, Avery Gomes, Qiana Sumner and Sofia Moreno Molina. Dawan Robinson served as head coach assisted by Tara Gomes and Sebastian Basilio Arias.

EPHS girls' notes
The winter for the East Providence High School girls' basketball team came to a close with the end of the regular season back in mid-February and the Townies having compiled a 3-18 overall record under first-year head coach Tammy Drape.

A depleted and relatively young and inexperienced EPHS roster was out of its realm playing in Division I. The Townies earned just two league wins out of 18, 32-28 victory over St. Raphael, Drape's former team, in early January and a 44-37 over Rogers later that month. EP's other win was a 42-21 triumph over Woonsocket to begin the season during the coaches' tip-off tourney in December.

"Obviously it was not the outcome we wanted. I thought we could have won a few more games. As the season went on I could see them getting better and better, especially on defense. North Kingstown came here and we gave them a little scare. Those are the things we're going to build on," said Drape, referring to a 43-29 loss later in the year to eventual regular season first-place NK. As they did against the Skippers and at least a handful of other games, the Townies hung tough for three quarters of the contest before coming up shy in the end.

East Providence loses just two players, Denelle Solano Guerrero and Nyima Goncalves, to graduation, Drape saying, "We're going to miss them. I really thought Denelle was coming into her own in the end and Nyima her IQ out on the court was something that we needed and she always gave 110 percent."

The Townies are expected to return next season a number of future juniors and sophomores who contributed this past year like leading scorers Harmonie McDowell and Zarae Hall along with contributors Trinity Provencher, Audrey Bernard, Shelby Quinn and others.

"First and foremost is for them to stay academically eligible, but we're also going to get in the weight room and putting the work in to get better physically. We'll see who's committed or not," Drape said of the offseason leading into the 2024-25 campaign. "I feel good. I'm looking forward to working with the kids we have coming back. We're still young. There's only one way to go, and that's up."

EPHS boys' notes
Considering what most preseason prognosticators expected from the EPHS boys' basketball team in 2023-24, the Townies enjoyed considerable success after winning a game in both the Division I and Open State playoff tournaments.

East Providence wound up with a 16-10 overall record despite losing all five starters from the previous winter due to either graduation or transfer. In their stead stepped 6-foot-7 senior center Kenaz Ochgwu, who in an expanded role averaged a team-best 15 points per game and grabbed an average of seven boards to share team-high rebounding honors with classmate Levi Jacobs, who became an integral member of the squad after missing the previous two years due to knee injuries. Jacobs averaged 10 ppg.

"I thought the season went well. We the amount of seniors we lost and the two transfers to prep schools (Xavier Hazard and Trey Rezendes) for what we had I think we surprised a lot of people. I think we were much better than people thought we would be, especially when you lose like 99 percent of your scoring from the year before," said EPHS head coach Joe Andrade following his just-completed eighth season at the helm of the Townies.

East Providence has qualified for the league playoffs all eight of Andrade's years on the bench and only likely missed out on earning a state bid because the 2020 postseason interrupted and later canceled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of that year.

Ochgwu's performance in the post led the D-I coaches to selected him first team All-Division and All-League. Jacobs was picked for second team All-League along with junior guard Christian Torres while junior guard Tyler Gomez third team.

East Providence's run in the league playoffs came to a close with a quarterfinals road loss to Bishop Hendricken. In the Open Tourney, unbeaten league and eventual state champ Classical brought the Townies' year as a whole to an end with setback also in the quarters.

"We have to shoot the basketball better. We're going to work on our strength and conditioning and our shooting," said Andrade, who would not commit to entering EPHS in a summer league this year. Instead, he contemplating using the allowable time on fundamentals.

Ochgwu and Jacobs are two of five seniors who depart the program along with regular contributors Derrell Liggins and Brandyn Van Wagner as well as role player Cam Evora. The rest of the varsity roster, 10 players in total, are expected to return to the fold this coming winter.

"Like I was a told by a coach during the year, we're an extremely easy team to cover," he continued. "We need to get better on catch-and-shoot, on boxing out, on setting screens, making proper passes, knowing what to do with end-game situations. That's the stuff I'm going to be preaching to them. They have to work on the basics and we also have to control our emotions better. They also have to be willing to be more coachable and to buy into what we're teaching them.

"If we're ever going to get over the top, become a Lincoln or a Smithfield that competes with Hendricken or a LaSalle or a Classical on a regular basis, those are the things we need to get done."

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.