KINGSTON — Eventual champion and second-seeded Bishop Hendricken defeated 11th-seeded East Providence High School 62-55 in the semifinals of the 2023 Rhode Island Open State Championship …
KINGSTON — Eventual champion and second-seeded Bishop Hendricken defeated 11th-seeded East Providence High School 62-55 in the semifinals of the 2023 Rhode Island Open State Championship Tournament Saturday night, March 11, at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center.
The next night the Hawks avenged a loss at the buzzer to LaSalle they suffered two weeks earlier in the Division I championship game by beating the Rams 67-61 to win their third consecutive state title. LaSalle beat Hendricken at the horn in the D-I championship game 47-45. The Rams reached the state final with a commanding 77-45 win over D-II Middletown in Saturday’s first semi.
For the Townies their 2022-23 season ended with a 15-9 overall record, including the appearance in the state tourney final four and a quarterfinal round loss to LaSalle in the league playoffs.
Hendricken’s Eze Wali and East Providence’s Trey Rezendes shared team and game-high scoring honors in the semis as both scored 26 points.
Wali’s partner in the Hawks’ 1-2 punch, Azmar Abdullah, had 23. Dylan Lynch chipped in five and Matt Brock four.
Xavier Hazard added 12 for the Townies, the only other EPHS player to approach double digits. Kenaz Ochgwu and Alex Mulamba had six apiece.
“Their two guys (Abdullah and Wali) did what they were supposed to do, but we shut all the rest of their other guys down,” said EPHS head coach Joe Andrade. “And I thought Trey played well. He held us in it. And Xavier had a decent game, but the rest of our guys just didn’t make any shots.”
Hendricken never trailed after Abdullah dropped in a layup for the game’s first points seconds into the contest. He followed with a hard drive to the goal to make it 4-0 Hawks before Rezendes drove coast-to-coast for East Providence’s initial bucket. That would be as close as the Townies would get the rest of the way.
Hendricken went up 11-4 on a Wali pull-up jumper from the free throw line, a place the Hawks spent quite a bit of time later Saturday night. Wali later gave Hendricken its largest lead of the first quarter, 18-9, on a putback of a mate’s miss off the break. Rezendes again drove the lane for two to account for the final points of the period, leaving the score at 18-11.
“Hendricken came out aggressive, like a ball of fire, and I thought we were a little timid early on. But I thought once we settled into the game we were fine,” said Andrade.
Wali next gave the Hawks their first double figure spread, 24-13, with a 3-pointer 90 seconds into the second quarter and his bucket with 30 seconds left were the last points before the break, giving Hendricken a 38-24 edge at intermission. That 14-point margin would prove the largest of the evening.
Because in the third quarter the Hawks went cold, scoring three points in the first 6:30 of the period. Unfortunately for the Townies, though, they, too, didn’t do much scoring. Though they trimmed the deficit to six (47-41) by the end of the quarter, it seemed like the locals let Hendricken off the hook, which they ultimately did.
“When they didn’t score for the first five or so minutes of the third quarter, we also didn’t score. We didn’t capitalize on that. We weren’t making any shots either,” said Andrade.
The game continued to lack flow in the fourth quarter. Hendricken did most of its damage at the foul line in the final 16 minutes, shooting 25 free throws to 10 for EPHS over the timeframe. In total, the Hawks finished the night 22-34 at the stripe, the Townies 12-14.
“I’m proud of how our guys played. We had a good showing. We fought the entire game,” said Andrade. “They beat us up on the inside and they out-shot us by a big amount at the free throw line. That’s the way Hendricken plays, 120%, and we didn’t match that. But the free throws, there’s some inconsistency there. I mean, they rebounded the ball well and made plays, but they also were out out of control at times and I thought they got bailed out, especially in the second half.”
Hendricken’s lead was nine (56-47) midway through the fourth and the score remained exactly that until the last two minutes. East Providence would get as close as 56-51 when Rezendes and Hazard both made a pair at the line. But the Hawks, themselves, shut the door at the line during the final 90 seconds, scoring their last six points on free throws.
“We showed we can hang with those guys, that we’re not far off from those two teams,” Andrade said of losing to Hendricken and LaSalle in the playoffs, adding of the winter overall, “I thought the team did pretty well. I would say we had a successful season. These kids won a lot of games and they created a lot of memories. That’s what this is supposed to be all about.”
— East Providence Post and eastbayri.com contributing photographer Julie Furtado shot the accompanying gallery of photos.