In the most recent basketball posts here at The Network, it's been noted that this week was going to be a big one for the Hawks. Prior to last Friday, our guys had worked themselves into a position in which they could have potentially grabbed one of the top seeds when it comes time for the state tournament. Even coming up a point short to Central didn't necessarily dash those hopes too much, as the next three games - Coventry, North Kingstown, and LaSalle - would mean much, much more in determining the Hawks' ultimate playoff scenarios.
The march through the the three-game gauntlet began well, with a reasonably convincing win at home against Coventry, 61-49. With that win in their holsters, the Hawks looked to North Kingston's coming to Pepin Gym last night, a chance for our guys to strengthen their position and to avenge this season's earlier defeat on the Skippers' home court, 61-52.
We're not breaking any news flashes here at The Network when we say that there's always been a bit of bad blood with NK...it might not be quite the genuine rivalry that we share with LaSalle, but the intensity always seems turned up a couple of notches. Further, when one considers these teams - the general group of players on both sides that have been on both last year's and this years's teams - it should be noted that the Skippers knocked off the Hawks twice last year during the regular season but that the Hawks (in somewhat of a re-building year and pretty young) pulled the upset at North Kingstown when the two squads met in the division quarterfinals. After having started to jell at the end of last season and with another year of experience under their belts, this year's edition of the Hawks hoped to begin delivering on what is clearly a team loaded with potential. During the first part of this season, our guys battled their way through some early-season struggles by playing tough, tough defense and got the season off the ground with some good wins. The one loss, however, was to that team that just won't go away, North Kingstown.
And so the Skippers came into Pepin last night.
Prior to the game, Coaches Gomes and Stephenson took the mic for the annual Senior Night, celebrating the contributions of the team's seniors (Tuks Ademola, Garfield Coustard, Chris O'Brien, EJ Nygren, Gus Culpo, and Will Parmlee) as well as those of team assistant senior Randolph Divers and faculty member and Basketball Operations Manager Mr. Yeamen, who'll be retiring at the end of the season. Both coaches praised the efforts of all involved and rightly pointed out that every one of them have been part of the successes of our basketball program. The lineup that took the floor for the start of last night's contest consisted of five of those seniors: captain Will Parmlee, EJ Nygren, Chris O'Brien, Tuks Ademola, and Garfield Coustard.
Those five got this game started right.
When the Skippers arrived for the game, they had every reason to believe that they would not be facing the same team that they had beaten several weeks ago, as the Hawks have clearly found their identity and have begun to play that way. Indeed, the Skippers probably realized fairly early on that they were, in fact, correct, because about six minutes into the game the Hawks looked as though they were going to run NK out of the building by getting out to a 24-13 lead; Pepin Gym was rockin', arguably as loud as it's ever been. The game was broadcast live right here on The Network and was easily our most-viewed game to date. The Network had a full team on hand for coverage: Johnathan Feeny, Cam Brennan, and Stone Freeman handled play-by-play, analysis, and social media duties, while freshmen Max Zweiner and Dylan Barron handled the sideline Instagram shots.
The entire second half of the game can still be seen in the central UStream viewer at the top of the page, and the majority of the first half can be seen here:
Video streaming by Ustream
Video streaming by Ustream
Video streaming by Ustream
The scoreboard in the first picture here tells part of the early-game story, and the highlights that follow gives a sense of the Hawks' quick tempo:
A funny thing happened during the Hawks' early-game run, however: the Skippers never lost their cool.
The Skippers persevered through the rough stretch, and then, throughout the rest of the game, used excellent perimeter defense to prevent any clean looks for the Hawks' sharpshooters and the play of 6'8 center Grant Gillis to control the paint most of the night. That combination - a clearly talented team, composure, and tough outside and inside defense - won the war after having lost the early battle.
The Hawks got solid play all night from Garfield Coustard (15 points) and Matt Duffie (13), but in the end it wasn't enough. This was a tough loss for the Hawks.
Next up for the Hawks is what is now an even more important game than it already was for the Hawks, but for different reasons. The Hawks travel to Academy Avenue for another Sunday matinee this weekend. While a win over NK would have positioned the Hawks to challenge the Rams for one of the top spots in the state, it would seem the Hawks need this game now to retain the hope of a top playoff seeding and to once again show themselves - more than anyone else - that they have the internal fortitude to pick themselves up and to keep moving forward.
There's no doubt that Sunday afternoon will be a lot of fun.
The Network will be there with live coverage. If you can't be there, be sure to tune in...let's put together as much support for our guys as possible. Remember, you can interact during the game by follwing The Network at Twitter - @bhsportsnetwork.