RIIL Season Preview
For the past few decades, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League has competed with three postseason division tournaments – Division I, II, and III – crowning a state champion in each one. This year, they have drastically changed the postseason tournament, and will only crown one state champion using the newly formed 16 team state tournament to decide the winner.
The 16 team state tournament will include 8 division I teams, 5 division II teams, and 3 division III teams and will be played out following the division tournaments for each of the three divisions. The division tournaments will include 10 teams from each division.
Despite the division tournaments, the seeds are based on regular season results. Teams that do not qualify for the state tournament based on regular season results can only qualify by winning their division tournament, which would knock off the last seed from their respective division in the state tournament field.
As the season progress, it will be interesting to see how this new format plays out, and if the RIIL will decide to keep it the same for the foreseeable future, or to make more changes next season. The extended postseason resulted in the high school season starting officially on Monday Novemer 22nd, a week earlier than previous years in the state.
Here’s who caught our eye going into the season:
Bishop Hendricken: The class of the state begins and ends with the Bishop Hendricken basketball program. Coach Jamal Gomes leads the newest edition of the hawks into the 2010-2011 season going for his 8th consecutive RIIL state championship. This time, he’ll have to win the new 16 team state tournament, instead of the smaller 10 team division I tournament of the past. Gomes looks to returning upperclassmen Tim Lyons, Dajuan Ives, Rory Temkin, Steven Bevilacqua, Pat Doyle, and Corey Palumbo to anchor this group.
North Kingstown High School: After losing in the RIIL Division I state championship to Hendricken last winter, the skippers look to rebound and compete for the title of state champion. Junior guard Rob Hazard is one of the best individual talents in the state, and senior big man Derek Kilgore is capable of dominant performances.
Cranston West High School: This year’s edition of the Cranston West Falcons is a team to watch and could contend for a state championship. Led by outstanding lead guard Bryan Yarce and senior forward Andrew Levy, the falcons have deep tournament run potential.
Saint Raphael Academy: Saint Rays is dangerous this year, led by their lethal backcourt combo of sophomore Charles Correa and Junior Cesar Mejia. Both are dominant off the bounce and could prove to be un-guardable throughout the course of the season. Inside, the Saints look to senior forward Trevor Vasey to produce. Although they underachieved a bit last year, this year’s team could be fun to watch.
Johnston High School: Johnston lost the Division III state championship in heartbreaking fashion last season on a pair of Central Falls free throws, but return a core of upperclassman who know how to win. Playing a tough 1-3-1 half court trap that can give opponents fits, the panthers are led by a double-double machine in big man Isaac Medeiros and his co-captains Christopher Fagbote and David Bubar.
Central High School: Central has a chance to be very dangerous this season. The Knights won 13 games last year and return a roster full of playmakers including Rob Lewis, Bryan Gautier, Ben Nunez, Davon Heard, and Jalon Brooks.
Mount Pleasant High School: The Kilties were within 3 points of knocking off Hendricken in the second round of the Division one tournament last year, and are poised to improve on last years 12-11 overall record. They return seniors Sopheak Ou and Jamal Lord, two strong guards.
Lasalle Academy: Coach Bill Black leads a young but intriguing group into the 2010-2011 season. A pair of sophomores in sharpshooter Tom Hunt and young big man Taylor Rivers will both be expected to produce at a high rate.
Narragansett High School: Coach David Gee has the tools to win Division II in bigs 6’7 Matt Pistacchio, 6’5 Jeff Pistacchio, and 6’4 Brendan Farley, and solid guards senior Billy Byrne and Junior Brendan Degnan.
The Prout School: After losing in the Division III Semi-finals last year, coach Eric Simonelli will turn to 6-5 Senior Wing John King to continue to put up big numbers. Up and coming Sophomore Big Justin Bristol is expected to have a big year, and senior forward Ben Thompson provides leadership and consistency.
• Coventry High School: Coventry possesses a pair of dangerous guards in jet quick point Nate Stitchell and sharpshooter Garrett Douglas.
• Smithfield High School: Smithfield looks to improve on last year’s solid 14-7 mark and turn to 6-5 big man Kyle Morvan and guard Connor Bouchard for production.
• Barrington High School: Barrington has the potential to win division II this year led by the solid sophomore prospect Ben Engvall and senior Connor Fiske
• Hope High School: Despite losing star Shaquille Jones in a transfer to Notre Dame Prep, veteran coach Dave Nyblom will turn to Junior Gary Francis and Sophomore Point Guard Josh Jones to lead the Blue Wave.
• Juanita Sanchez Career and Technical School: The Cavaliers are one of the favorites in Division III, with sophomore forward Evan Hopson, and Seniors Malcolm Scott and Ramon Quinonez.
• West Warwick High School: West Warwick is a definite Division II contender led by junior point guard Max Motrini.
• Westerly High School: Westerly high school is always tough, and will turn to senior big man Zach Wells to carry them to success in division II.
• South Kingstown High School: The rebels seem to make the Division I tournament every year and look to carry that success into the new state tournament led by senior forwards Rory McCentee and Chase Almond.
• Exeter West-Greenwich High School: Dropping from Division I to Division III should drastically increase this years win total for the scarlet knights, led by sophomore shooter Ben Andrews.
• Woonsocket High School: Despite losing several seniors, the villa novans are still a dangerous team after winning 16 games last year.
• Tiverton High School: Tiverton could contend for a Division II title with St. Georges transfer Gunner Bjornson and big man Jeff McNally.