Championship pedigree and sound, disciplined basketball thrive along Tobacco Road, the North Carolina region housing both Duke University’s and the University of North Carolina’s storied basketball programs. While not carrying the national recognition, our own South County Trail has to present a similar hoops scenario for Rhode Island teams traveling into our local region. As challengers trek the southward route, they get the full measure of our girls’ and boys’ talent trove, with the Division I and Division II leaderboard top-heavy with nearby programs.

On the girls’ side, South Kingstown has once again placed itself in the title mix, battling for state supremacy with fellow 2019 state finalist La Salle. And this year there is a new contender in the improved North Kingstown Skippers. Already past the season’s halfway mark, both Kingstown teams sport just one league loss, playing a team-oriented game, with offense well spread across the entire unit. If you are hoping to see these two fives match up, luck is close by, as they will play next Tuesday night on the Rebels’ home court. It should be a good one. Be there, if at all possible.

From the Division I boys’ perspective, this time last year, North Kingstown was locked in essentially a five-way divisional draw approaching the playoffs and its run at the school’s elusive first title. We know how that story ended, with the Skippers playing their way into school history with both divisional and state championships. Where do they find themselves a year later? While a slight shuffling at the top, once again there are a handful of teams with the talent to make a long run. And the Skippers will no doubt be right there, with their pair of high scoring seniors and a deep, athletic surrounding group. It should be a fun next month.

And be sure not to forget about the South Kingstown Rebels, making their move up the leader board with a style of play reflective of coach Roland Fiore’s aggressive mindset. They recently sandwiched three league wins around tough losses to Hendricken and La Salle. Like the upcoming girls’ showdown, the North and South boys will be playing this Friday night at the Skippers home court. Standings have no bearing when these two teams meet. Catch this one, too. It should be a winner.

• So, how do the Narragansett Mariners keep their team at the top of the Division II standings? Easy enough. Take a rebound in the final seconds and launch the ball the length of the court for a 3-pointer at the buzzer as part of an amazing comeback win. That is exactly what the Mariners did in a stunning turnaround against Pilgrim High School on Monday. A tip of the cap to you, Colby Corson, who finished with 31 points, but none more astonishing than your length of the court heave. It seems that should have counted for more than three, but it was all that was needed. Congratulations, and good luck to the Narragansett team moving forward.

• During a recent trip to see one of our South County teams play, I witnessed what I considered to be the epitome of effort and sportsmanship in the heat of high school sports. In South Kingstown’s win at Central High School, Rebel Hunter Roberts earned Barry at the Buzzer recognition, as during a Central fast break in the second quarter, chasing the play and not giving up on the opportunity to turn back a Knight fast break basket, Roberts made an aggressive, yet clean attempt to swat the ball away. Great effort. But it gets better. Unlike what we so often see at high levels where fallen opponents are left to fend for themselves, Roberts backtracked to offer a hand to the fallen competitor, pulling him off the floor and apologizing for the hard foul. That gesture stayed with me through the night. When we play hard, play fair, and play with sportsmanship, it is a wonderful thing to see. Well done, Hunter.

• The winter sports season will reach its peak over the next month across all sports. Take the opportunity to witness our depth of athletic talent, either on the wrestling mats, indoor tracks, swimming pools, gymnastic arenas, cheerleading events, or basketball courts. Attending allows us to connect with community members, something that is hard to find in the cold, winter months, while supporting youth competing at their highest level.

So much can be learned from our young people. Observing all that is transpiring around us on the national scene, I sense they may understand far more than we do as it relates to playing together as a unit, supporting each other regardless of jersey color, making good judgement decisions on right and wrong, and finding common ground toward mutually acceptable solutions. Wisdom supposedly comes with age, but the cohesion instinct in our young people would suggest we need to be observing their process as much as asking them to learn from ours.

Bill Barry is a North Kingstown resident. He writes about the local sports scene, sports parenting and more in a regular column.

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