In the cafeteria this past Friday morning, there was a subtle yet distinct buzz threading its way through various conversations at the tables: LaSalle had lost to Smithfield, 69-61. The Rams were no longer undefeated, which provided our guys an opportunity, an ever-so-slight opening, to make a run at the top ranking in the state. With big games looming this week against Coventry, North Kingstown, and LaSalle, the Hawks could solidly position themselves not only in Division I-South but also in the seeding for the state playoffs.
Here's the thing about opportunities, however - one must take advantage of them in order to reap the possible rewards. With a chance to pry that slight opening even more widely, the Hawks fell short against Central, 58-57. Although Central is a talented team and very athletic, the result would have to be termed an upset and, much more importantly, a disappointment, given the circumstances.
The most important ingredient in overall success, though, whether it be an individual or a group, is the ability to pick oneself up and to keep moving forward. That's how winning is done and how champions are made. Yesterday, in yet another Sunday afternoon matinee at Pepin gym, the Hawks did just that in the first of those big games, as they overcame a somewhat flat start but eventually found themselves and knocked off the Coventry Oakers, 61-49. The game was broadcast live right here on The Network, and nearly the entire second half can still be seen in the central UStream viewer at the top of the page, and the entire first half can be seen here:
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The Network's Max Zweiner caught up with Coach Gomes to get his reaction to the win:
The game was an important one, since coming into the game the Hawks were 9-2 in Division I-South play, and the Oakers were 10-3, which is, for all intents and purposes, a dead heat.
The Oakers were clearly in control of the tempo for about the first ten minutes of the game, leading by as many as eight points. Nothing seemed to rattle them. The Hawks, on the other hand, seemed a bit tight and out-of-sync. Coming off the bench, Matt Duffie, the Hawks' leading scorer, then provided the spark that our guys desperately needed to start turning the game in the other direction. By halftime, the Hawks had closed the gap and trailed by just two, 22-20. Matt finished with 21 points for the game, and some of his highlights can be seen here:
Despite seeming to take the momentum into the locker room with them, the Hawks apparently opted to leave it there, as the majority of the second half played out much as the first had - with the Oakers calmly in control and sticking to their game. With about five minutes to go, Coventry had a five-point lead, 41-36.
Then EJ Nygren did his best impersonation of ACDC's "Thunderstruck".
ACDC - Thunderstruck
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EJ's two huge three-pointers ignited the Hawks for the stretch run and were the sparks behind a 16-0 Hawks run that put them ahead, 52-41. To the Oakers' credit, they continued to compete and managed to hang in by hitting a couple of three-pointers. The game was cemented, however, by freshman Justin Mazzulla's breakaway dunk:
Hopefully, the Hawks' performance in this game - showing the ability to dig deep when it counts most and to pick themselves up after a tough loss - will pay dividends both during this tough stretch of games and down the road. It's gonna get real interesting, real fast.
The Network will be broadcasting the second of these big games, tomorrow night at 7 from Pepin Gym, when the Hawks battle North Kingstown, to whom they lost earlier in the season. Johnathan Feeny and Cam Brennan will once again have the call.