BY TIM SCOTT
For the third year, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League will be hosting their annual Open State Tournament. This year’s tournament will feature sixteen of the state’s best teams, and will culminate with the eventual state champion.
Each of the teams were chosen based on a Power Points system. A Division I team received 1.0 points for a league victory. A Division II team received 0.8 for a league victory, while a Division III team received 0.6 points for a league victory. These guidelines also applied to postseason play, and each team received points for postseason victories.
Pawtucket’s Saint Raphael Academy (2011) and Providence’s Central High School (2012) were the first two state champions under this new tournament format, but surprisingly, both of these teams will not be in the state tournament. Since both teams finished with losing records, they were not eligible among the top sixteen.
By the numbers, there are eight Division I teams, seven Division II teams, and one Division III team that will be participating in this year’s tournament. The opening round games will be held on Wednesday and Thursday at three collegiate campuses (Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick, Rhode Island College, and Roger Williams University). The winners of these eight games will play on Sunday, March 3, in a quadruple-header at Providence College’s Mullaney Hall. The Final Four and State Championship Games will be held at the Ryan Center, home of the University of Rhode Island Rams.
Here are the team-by-team previews for every participating team in this year’s state tournament.
1. CLASSICAL PURPLE (17-5, 15-3 in Division I)
The Purple had one of the strongest teams in Division I, and it showed during the 2012-2013 season. Led by veteran coach John Kavanagh, the Purple finished with a 15-3 record in Division I. Playoff victories over Cranston West and Bishop Hendricken improved their rankings. They may have lost to crosstown rival, Hope, in the Division I Finals on Sunday, but this did not take away from a great season. Junior Kealen Ives led the scoring with 22.2 points, while seniors Terrill Toe (19.8) and Ismael Batista (18.6) were major contributors to their success. Classical’s experience and performance in clutch situations should be beneficial as they try to pursue the team’s first RIIL State Title.
2. LaSALLE ACADEMY RAMS (16-6, 16-2 in Division I)
The LaSalle Academy Rams, who are coached by Eric Simonelli, have overcome several obstacles to become a top contender in Rhode Island. After 2012 leading scorer Tom Hunt left for Saint Andrew’s, the team depended on first-year coach Simonelli for guidance and performed well. But despite the departure of leading scorer Mike Clark and the suspension of a few key players due to a role in an off-court skirmish, the Rams still have a solid talent core that will make them competitive. Brothers Jared (12.7) and Dexter Thompson (11.3) lead the Rams, and will make key contributions for the Rams down the stretch.
3. NORTH KINGSTOWN SKIPPERS (20-3, 16-2 in Division I)
The North Kingstown Skippers, coached by Aaron Thomas, have one of the strongest talent cores in the state of Rhode Island. A strong veteran presence and good team chemistry made this team very hard to beat in Division I, resulting in a 16-2 league record. Seniors Owen Heath (13.4), Justin Pratt (12.6), Chris Hess (10.4), Austin Barry (9.4), and Matt Quainoo (9.3) lead a strong veteran core that can play a strong amount of minutes, and make games competitive for many teams across the state.
4. CUMBERLAND CLIPPERS (22-3, 15-3 in Division II)
The Division II champion Cumberland, coached by Gary Reedy, come into the playoffs with a strong momentum boost. Winning their previous five games, the Clippers rolled past Exeter/West Greenwich, Barrington, and Shea in order to win their first basketball championship since 1936. Like North Kingstown, the majority of the Clippers’ regular players are seniors. Led by guard Tom Lazaras (15.0), center Dylan Boisclair (14.7), guard Ben Bradley (13.5), and forward Gregg Joubert (8.4), the Clippers have a strong veteran core, and come to play in close situations. When the challenges are up against, the Clippers have a strong team chemistry that will make them a tough opponent in the tournament.
5. NORTH SMITHFIELD NORTHMEN (24-0, 18-0 in Division III)
One of the biggest stories in the RIIL basketball world, the North Smithfield Northmen finished the 2012-2013 season with an undefeated 24-0 record. Coached by TJ Ciolfi, the Northmen won big in all of their games, and beat non-DIII teams Coventry, Lincoln, and Central Falls in the process. Seniors Cody L’Heureux (16.8) and Matt Walkow (16.3), as well as junior Peter Keenan (13.1) led the Northmen in offensive production, and role players Dan Jordan (8.8) and Breno Pena (7.0) will be of great value during the postseason chase. If they win, the Northmen will be the first DIII team in the Elite Eight since the tournament’s inception in 2011.
6. MOUNT PLEASANT KILTIES (13-8, 12-6 in Division I)
The Mount Pleasant Kilties, who are coached by Charles Holliday, are a very competitive team that hails from the basketball hotbed of Providence. The Kilties finished with a 12-6 record in Division I, but fell to Coventry in the quarterfinals of the Division I tournament. Senior Jovel Beckford (17.4) is a slick three-point specialist, who can burn defenders on any given day. Juniors Zdahmond Dale (14.2) and Joseph Putu (7.7) are very solid players, and will make this Kilties squad very competitive in the state tournament.
7. HOPE BLUE WAVE (14-12, 9-9 in Division I)
The Blue Wave have proven themselves as postseason juggernauts in the past two years. Coached by David Nyblom, the Blue Wave finished in the State Finals against Central last year. Despite finishing 9-9 this year with the eighth seed in the DI tournament, Hope rode their blue wave past East Providence, LaSalle, Coventry, and Classical enroute to the Division I championship. Hope has a talent core that can make them a Cinderella story in the RIIL State Tournament. Seniors Manny Kargbo (18.7), Johnson Weah (9.7), and Wayne Andrews-Clements (8.5), along with junior Ben Vezele (8.3) will be key role players for the Blue Wave in this year’s tournament.
8. WESTERLY BULLDOGS (17-5, 15-3 in Division II)
The Bulldogs, who have appeared in each of the last three state tournaments, have a strong squad that will be competitive. Coached by Michael Gleason, the Bulldogs finished 15-3 in Division II, and won several key games. Even though they were upset by West Warwick in the Quarterfinals of the DII Tournament, the Bulldogs still play tight and exciting games. The big reason for their success has been senior scoring sensation Austin Cilley. Cilley, who set the school record in points scored, also led Rhode Island with an average of 25.8 points per game. Contributing players Jacee Hamelin (9.6), Zach Burbine (9.4), and Max Bumarch (7.3) will be good players who will set up opportunities for high-scoring games during the course of the tournament.
9. NORTH PROVIDENCE COUGARS (16-5, 15-3 in Division II)
The Cougars, who continue to churn up talent under head coach Paul Rizzo, lost a majority of their Elite Eight team last year, but have the talent pool to make a repeat appearance at Alumni Hall. Seniors Joel Diaz (15.4), Sam Odukoya (14.8), Jake DiDomenico (14.2), and Jeff Malloney (9.1) were valuable players as the Cougars finished with a 15-3 record in the Division II ranks. Diaz is a sharpshooter, and the post-playing skills of Odukoya and DiDomenico will be challenging for several opposing defenders, and the toughness in the paint will be hard to beat. The Cougars will be a team that could be exciting to watch in the tournament.
10. COVENTRY OAKERS (13-10, 10-8 in Division I)
The Coventry Oakers are a team that fight for possessions, and convert opportunities into points quickly. Coached by Tom Campbell, their record may not indicate their success, but their margins of victory against top teams make convincing arguments. In the DI tournament, the Oakers upset Mount Pleasant, 71-66, and only lost to eventual champion Hope by three points (65-62).
11. BARRINGTON EAGLES (17-7, 13-5 in Division II)
The Barrington Eagles are a prominent example of how good offense and good defense
make for successful performances. Coached by Patrick Sullivan, the Eagles avenged the loss of 1000 point scorer Ben Engvall (who transferred to Choate Rosemary Hall) with a solid 13-5 record in Division II. The Eagles defeated Prout in the DII Quarterfinals, but fell to Cumberland in the DII Semifinals, 58-43. Senior Jesse Browne (15.0) will be a key player for the Eagles, as he is a player who could score from both inside and outside the arc. Despite the loss of sophomore Corey Daugherty (14.7) to mononucleosis, several players will need to play strongly in his absence. Kevin Mannix (5.9), Jared Silk (5.8), and Nick Raymond (5.8) will look to be major contributors as the Eagles look to make a good run in the postseason.
12. SHEA RAIDERS (16-8, 12-6 in Division II)
The Shea Raiders are an athletic squad that can make games really close and intense. Coached by Matt Pita, the Raiders finished 12-6 in Division II, and were looking to make a run. Shea scored big victories over North Providence and West Warwick in the DII Tournament before falling to Cumberland, 60-54, in the Division II Championship. Seniors Eli Itkin (12.7) and Alvin Semedo (12.1), along with junior Chris Mainville (10.6) are the leading scorers for the Raiders. With an athletic roster that can do the distance in any game, expect the Raiders to be tough competition in the playoffs.
13. THE PROUT SCHOOL CRUSADERS (15-8, 13-5 in Division II)
In their first year of playing in Division II (they previously played in DIII), the Prout Crusaders combine height and shooting in their gameplan. Coached by Jed O’Malley, the Crusaders finished 13-5 in their inaugural campaign in DII, but fell to Barrington in the quarterfinals of the Division II Tournament. Their leading scorers are Eric Ramieka (20.3), Justin Bristol (13.3), and Chris DiClemente (10.5). Each of their players can make key contributions at any time, and they could be a formidable bunch in this year’s state tournament.
14. CRANSTON WEST FALCONS (14-9, 10-8 in Division I)
The Cranston West Falcons, who are two years removed from a Division I Championship, are a youthful squad that could make big runs in any game. Coached by James Moretti, the Falcons finished 10-8 in Division I, and clinched a berth in the tournament with strong athleticism. Despite falling to Classical in the DI Quarterfinals, the Falcons have several bright spots on their roster. Seniors Tevin Goins (13.8) and Mike Rainone (10.5) have led the offensive charge, while Tyler Fann (9.6) will provide a spark on defense. The Falcons have experience, and that could help them in the tournament.
15. BISHOP HENDRICKEN HAWKS (11-10, 9-9 in Division I)
Despite the loss of sharpshooter Lee Messier to Tilton, a depleted Hendricken roster still made significant strides during the 2012-2013 season. Strengthened by head coach Jamal Gomes, the Hawks managed to cash in postseason victories over Cranston East and North Kingstown in the DI Tournament to ensure a spot in the state tournament. Seniors William Tavares (14.0), Kazre Cummings (9.9), and Ryan Hagerty (9.3) are the major contributors for the Hendricken squad, who use lockdown defense to limit opposing offenses. A strong defense and the will to move on in the playoffs could help Hendricken in the tournament.
16. WEST WARWICK WIZARDS (17-8, 11-7 in Division II)
The West Warwick Wizards are a very young squad who edged out the DIII runner up, East Greenwich, with their powerpoints in order to clinch the 16th seed. The Wizards lost 5 of their final 6 games in the regular season before turning it around in the postseason. Big wins over Portsmouth and Westerly helped them to the DII Semifinals before losing an overtime thriller to Shea. Coached by Richard Grenier, the Wizards are a young squad whose main contributors are mostly freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Junior Brad Young (16.4), sophomore Kody Greenhalgh (14.9), and freshman Trevor Lawton (12.1) are the big three for West Warwick, who amount for a significant amount of their points. In a few years, this team could be a potential threat of the state title, but it is never too late for future success to begin.
SCHEDULE FOR THE RIIL OPEN STATE TOURNAMENT:
REGION ONE (Wednesday, 2/27 at Rhode Island College)
6:00-(9) North Providence at (8) Westerly
8:00-(16) West Warwick at (1) Classical
REGION TWO (Wednesday, 2/27 at CCRI-Warwick)
6:30-(15) Bishop Hendricken at (2) LaSalle Academy
8:15-(10) Coventry at (7) Hope
REGION THREE (Thursday, 2/28 at CCRI-Warwick)
6:30-(11) Barrington at (6) Mount Pleasant
8:15-(14) Cranston West at (3) North Kingstown
REGION FOUR (Thursday, 2/28 at Roger Williams University)
6:00-(12) Shea at (5) North Smithfield
8:00-(13) Prout at (4) Cumberland
SUNDAY, MARCH 3: ELITE EIGHT (at Providence College-Alumni Hall)
FRIDAY, MARCH 8: FINAL FOUR (at Ryan Center-URI)
SUNDAY, MARCH 10: RI CHAMPIONSHIP (at Ryan Center-URI)