As it tries to defend its championship with a new-look squad, the Narragansett High School boys basketball doesn’t have to dig deep into the archives for inspiration.
The Mariners won the Division II title in 2016. The next year – with only one returning starter – they promptly went 17-1.
Now, coming off another championship, another changing cast is taking the torch. The Mariners have three key players returning, plus untested players ready for bigger roles and freshmen poised to make an impact. Together, they’ll try to keep the bar high, just as their predecessors did.
“It’s a nice bunch. We’ve got a good mix of juniors and seniors with experience and we’ve got a new class of freshmen who are looking good,” said head coach Kyle Bodington. “It keeps it from being a rebuilding year. We think we can compete. We’ve got to come together quickly. Division II is a great league. But we have the ability and the numbers to have a good year.”
The new crop will attempt to write the next chapter in what’s been an unprecedented stretch for the program. Beginning with the 2014-15 season, Narragansett has won at least 14 league games every year, captured two D-II titles and qualified for four consecutive state open tournaments. Their 62 regular-season wins over the last four seasons are the most in any four-year period since the program was founded in 1976. Last year was a climax for a talented senior class that drove the continued success, with Jack Lurgio, Matt Ryan, London Sudduth and Thomaz Whitford pushing the Mariners to the D-II title and the brink of the state tournament Final Four.
Their supporting cast will now take the spotlight as the Mariners look for a fifth consecutive good season. Senior sharpshooter Colin Cameron was a starter for each of the last two years and will carry a big scoring load, though he’ll be sidelined for roughly the first month with an injury suffered during football season. Senior Jordan Riendeau and junior Michael Levesque came off the bench to play significant minutes the last two seasons. Riendeau provides a strong presence inside, and Levesque is ready to take over point guard duties from Sudduth.
Senior Ben Reddington and juniors Colby Corson, Atticus Duncan and Jayme Xaykosy have some experience under their belts. Corson was just outside the regular rotation last year. Duncan brings significant size to the front line, where he’ll team with Riendeau.
The junior class also includes Nathan Rzemien and Michael Ward.
“We’ve got a great group of juniors,” Bodington said. “We’re really expecting a lot out of them.”
A deep group of underclassmen includes sophomore Ethan Betts and a host of freshmen. Four of the freshmen – Matthew Calabro, Thomas Calabro, Peanut Chaloux and B.J. Richards – will be pushing for varsity minutes while they start the season as swing players.
“They’ve played very well,” Bodington said. “We’ll see what happens and we’ll see how they develop.”
The freshmen – and all of the Mariners – are fully aware of the kind of program they’re part of. The cast may be changing but the standards aren’t.
“They look up at that banner every day at practice,” Bodington said.
South Kingstown starts over
A culmination one year often means a new era the next.
South Kingstown certainly had the first part. Two 1,000-point milestones. A trip to the Final Four at the Ryan Center. It was the memorable year the Rebels were hoping for last season, a capper on years of work for the team’s core players.
Now comes that new era. With some experienced players back in uniform, there’s a bridge to it, but it will definitely be new.
“It’ll certainly be a different style,” head coach Roland Fiore said. “This year’s team looks to have more balance size-wise and speed-wise. They’re working hard and I like the intensity that we’ve seen so far.”
The Final Four appearance was South Kingstown’s first since the advent of the open state tournament in 2010. A year prior, the Rebels made their first state tourney appearance, the first sign of what was to come. Keegan Records, Darian Butler and their senior classmates led the fulfillment of the promise, each hitting 1,000 career points on their way to all-state honors. Both are now doing post-grad years in the prep school ranks as they chase college opportunities.
In their wake, this year’s team is finding its way.
“We’re off to a good start,” Fiore said. “There’s a lot of competition for playing time, and it looks like every person on the roster will be able to contribute. We look to be competitive.”
Records was the state’s best big man for two years running, but the Rebels still retain some size and strength without him. Senior Lawrence Shepard started alongside Records last season and is primed to become a focal point in the paint this year. Senior forwards Jack St. Angelo and Cole Podedworny will also slide into bigger roles after emerging as key contributors by the end of last season. St. Angelo scored 17 points – in his first varsity start – when the Rebels beat Narragansett to punch their Final Four ticket.
There’s also a hole in the backcourt, where Butler started for three years and delivered a breakout senior season. Point guard Ryan Fazio graduated as well. Senior Cam Munroe, who has varsity minutes on his resume, is first in line to shoulder the load without them.
The junior class includes Hunter Roberts, Sean Gardner and Justin Brown, all of whom will be seeing their first significant varsity time. A strong sophomore class features four or five players who could make an impact.
At every position, versatility stands out.
“We have a lot of guys who are interchangeable,” Fiore said. “It’s an athletic group.”
And it’s a group that is eager to make its own mark, new era or not.
The Rebels will be ready to go.
“I think the players have a lot of pride,” Fiore said. “They worked hard in the off-season.”
Skippers have strong track record
In 2016, North Kingstown won boys basketball championships at the freshman and junior varsity levels. Now, all those players are under the same banner with the varsity squad – and they won’t shy away from the expectations established in their younger years.
“These seniors were the group that won the JV title and the juniors won the freshman title the same year,” head coach Aaron Thomas said. “They’re all finally together at the varsity level now. It’s a good group. We’re excited about them.”
Riding a streak of 11 straight years with double-digit wins, the Skippers have won with just about every kind of group, of course. But the successful track record makes this one well-equipped to continue the success. Graduation took some key contributors, including all-division pick Ryan Maloney and center Dylan Thomas, but six players are back with significant varsity experience, with depth provided by the former members of those championship JV and freshman teams.
The returning crew is led by juniors Clay Brochu and Nick Sacchetti, who did something not many North Kingstown players have the opportunity to do in starting as sophomores last year. Sacchetti ran the point and Brochu emerged as one of the state’s top young players with a second-team all-division campaign.
“We’ve invested a lot in those guys,” Thomas said. “They’ve both gotten physically stronger and they’re looking to take their games to the next level.”
Seniors Ben Masse, Dylan Poirier, Tristan Curran and Nick Quarella have also played big minutes in the past. Masse burst onto the scene last year as a knockdown shooter, while Curran played a lot of point guard. Poirier – a Division I football prospect who’s headed to the University of New Hampshire – is a physical presence inside. He’ll team with the 6-foot-8 Quarella, who had several good performances off the bench last year.
With those roles secure, the Skippers are now looking to hammer out the rest of their rotation. Among the players competing for time are seniors James McGovern and Chris Sherman, who saw limited time last year, senior newcomer Aiden Hindley-Rivera and juniors John Quainoo, Mason Walsh and Geoff Coyne.
However the lineups shake out, the Skippers expect to have depth – and to use it.
“We want to try to get out and run because of the depth,” Thomas said. “If you want to run, you’ve got to have three things - you’ve got to rebound, you’ve got to be in great shape and you’ve got to have good depth. I think we have all three.”
Thomas expects many of the usual suspects to compete for the top tier in Division I. His own team is included, but he’s preaching that it’s not a given. A year ago, the Skippers bowed out in the first round of the state tournament, something they’ll be using as fuel all winter.
“When you have a good team, you can’t become complacent,” Thomas said. “We didn’t finish it last year, and these guys are well aware of that. You know if you lose, you’re out. What you don’t know is that you’re going to be watching seniors in the locker room after their last game. That’s tough, and I think it left a lasting impression. It’s a work in progress, but I think that experience will help.”
Prout building on step forward
After a three-year absence, Prout returned to the Division II playoffs last season and nearly stayed a while, losing by a point in an opening-round upset bid against Shea. It was another positive development for the program’s rebuild, following a late surge by the 2016-17 squad that left it just outside the postseason.
With an inexperienced lineup, it won’t be easy for the Crusaders to take an additional step this season, but the expectation to do so is in place.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season last year was to make the playoffs,” head coach Dean Felicetti said. “I think it was a step in the right direction. Our expectation – aside from winning every night – is that we’re in a position where we should be making the playoffs every year.”
Seniors led the push back to the postseason last year, with graduation claiming all-division selections Jonathan Joel and Nick Mahar, as well as key contributors Tyler Macari and Josh Mattera. The backcourt took an especially large hit with the loss of Joel, whose steady hand at the point drove the Crusaders’ offense.
Without those pieces, the Crusaders must find a new identity.
“It’s early and we’re young, so we’re making some mistakes that I think a lot of teams make at this time of year,” Felicetti said. “But I will say we’re pretty physical. Each practice, they’re leaving the gym and they really know we’ve practiced. They’re putting the work in. I like the intensity.”
Prout’s strength this year may lie more in the front court, where seniors Will Monast and Jacob Moniz are the team’s most experienced players, with three years of varsity time under their belts. Monast will man the center position, while Moniz is a versatile forward who can play inside and out.
“With a young team, you have to have good leadership and those guys have already separated themselves as leaders in practice,” Felicetti said.
The senior class also includes forward Nick Taber – who showed signs of big improvement in tryouts – forward Brandon Manning and guard Zach Chofay. Juniors Timmy Clarke, Adam Kurtz and Luke Slom are poised to make a big impact. The youth movement includes sophomore Maxwell Fiore, sophomore Chariho transfer Johnny Mainella and freshman Alexis DelGiudice, who has earned a full varsity spot.
Given the youth and the bigger roles for experienced players, the Crusaders will be a work in progress once they hit the court, but they expect to employ a familiar brand of basketball.
“I think it’s going to be game to game in terms of how we play, but we’re really focusing on transition right now,” Felicetti said. “I think we’re going to be OK because we can play so many kids.”
Division II isn’t an easy landscape for a team that’s getting its feet wet.
“It’s so challenging every single night,” Felicetti said.
But that won’t change the hopes for the Crusaders.
“Our expectation is super high,” Felicetti said.