Members of the Bishop Hendricken team celebrate Div. 1 title (Photo: Justin Moretti)
By JUSTIN MORETTI
Facing and overcoming adversity in life is as much a part of being human as breathing, walking upright and having the ability to speak.
COVID-19 brought adversity to our doorsteps this year, taking the world as
we know it and flipping it upside down. Uncertainty loomed throughout every facet and sector of society and tossed a load of uncertainty into the lives of high school athletes. Finally a decision was made and shortened seasons were allowed, albeit with mask mandates and no parents or friends in the stands.
Like the pros and college teams, the prepsters battled the chances of positive COVID tests. This meant pauses for practice, games, and some quarantine but by Saturday afternoon six teams were at the Murray Center ready to battle for championships.
For Times Squared Academy’s basketball team, this `What if,’ unfortunately, became a reality.
“It was after our third game,” said Times Squared Head Coach Dwayne Monroe. “Right after we played St. Patrick’s one of our kids tested positive that Saturday and we were off for 10 days.”
The 10 day quarantine could’ve broken a team, but instead it became the Eagles time to prove who they were and what they were really made of.
“We didn’t have no practice, we didn’t have no games. One kid ended up with COVID and it was like a light switched,” Monroe said. “We have to fight through this adversity because it could happen again. We just have to keep going.”
And fight they did. The Eagles were able to complete their quarantine and no other players tested positive. Coach Monroe made sure that his players remained focused. He sent them new plays to study and the players did their part. The Eagles made sure to stay in shape, doing push-
up, sit-ups and exercising regularly to remain ready to compete.
However, during the quarantine, it wasn’t just the players who had to overcome adversity.
Coach Monroe went through some personal struggles of his own. He attributed the time away from the game as what helped him.
“I just wanted to get my life on track for a 30-year-old adult,” Monroe said. “I just wanted to get more balance in my life. I went through some relationship problems. The 10-day break definitely helped out.”
After the 10-day quarantine period was complete and all of the players tested negative, the Eagles were ready to pick up where they left off. The Eagles racked up four straight wins to bring their winning streak to seven and their record to 7-0.
The Eagles finished with a record of 8-1 and were the second seed in the Division III playoffs. The playoffs, however, would be no walk in the park. They narrowly defeated seven-seeded Moses Brown 48-45 and were able to defeat the three-seeded Wizards of West Warwick High School. In Saturday’s finals they faced off against the fifth-seeded Blackstone Valley Prep who previously took down top-seeded Davies Career and Tech. The Eagles fell behind early but rallied to force overtime and eventually grab a 60-54 victory.
The Eagles were led by junior guard Jason Peters who was named game MVP and scored his 1,000th career point. “It feels amazing, it’s a lot to take in. I hit my 1,000th with a minute left,” Peters said. “I was told that I was 18 [points] away then they told me that I needed 14 or 16 but it doesn’t matter because the original goal was to win a championship.”
Coach Monroe has coached Peters from the time he was 11 years old back in a city recreation league basketball.
“The same person Jason is now is the same person that he was then,” Monroe said. “He always wanted to get better, always wanted to be in the gym. He’s just a great hard worker and a great kid on and off the court. He’s also an honor roll student so you can’t ask for more than that.”
For the second year in a row the Portsmouth Patriots are the champions of
The Patriots faced off against fifth-seeded Burrillville in a back-and-forth match up where it appeared that the Broncos were in the driver’s seat.
This, however was short-lived as the Patriots clawed their way back in, took firm control and rolled to a 51-36 victory.
Portsmouth’s upperclassman leadership helped to steer the
ship in the right direction after their top offensive contributor, All-Stater Ben Hurd, was limited to just two points. Tim Chlaupek (16 points) and Jack Bielawa (10) stepped up for the Patriots.
“Timmy Chlaupek and Jack Bielawa, we have watched their leadership skills grow throughout this season,” said coach Joe Occhi. “It has been awesome to watch.”
The final game of the day certainly packed plenty of excitement.
The top-seeded Purple of Classical battled second-seeded Bishop Hendricken. In a tight game throughout where neither team would give an inch, the Hawks finally shook free and secured a 60-51 victory in overtime.
In the final moments of regulation it appeared that the Hawks had
this game in their grasp but the lead began to slip away. The Purple were able to tie the game as Classical got back-to-back buckets from Elijah Nyahkoon and then Stanley Urey tied it. Urey, who led all scorers with 23 points, missed a free throw to keep the game tied at 51 and neither team was able to score in the final minutes.
The overtime session was all Hawks – just as it was in playoff wins over Barrington and La Salle. Azmar Abdullah led the way with 16 points, while football stars Cam Hughes (11) and David Lynch (9) also came up big. The win marked the second Division I crown in a row for the Hawks.