Hendricken got arguably its toughest league test of the season at La Salle on Friday night, but the Hawks were able to escape without blemishing their unbeaten Division I record.
Senior captains T.J. Weeks and Jalen Watson scored 17 points apiece to pace four Hawks in double-figures, as Hendricken overcame a slow start to down the rival Rams, 65-53.
Hendricken coach Jamal Gomes called a timeout less than two minutes into the game after La Salle jumped out to a 9-3 lead. After that, the Hawks went on to outscore La Salle by 18 points the rest of the way, taking a two-point lead into halftime before taking complete control of the game in the second half.
“We just had to settle down and start playing defense,” Gomes said of his message to the team during that early timeout. “I’m very proud of our guys. That may have been our most well-executed game of the season up until this point. To do that in this environment at La Salle was huge for us because we haven’t been playing particularly well lately. They showed that they can do it, and now I hope this catapults us the rest of the season.”
Hendricken’s starting five vastly outplayed La Salle’s starting group, as the Hawks got all 65 of their points from their starters, while the Rams got just 30 from theirs. The Rams’ top scorer was junior Elijah Perry, who came off the bench and netted a team-high 15 points to help the Rams hang around.
La Salle senior Zachary Simpson sparked his team and home crowd early, scoring seven of the Rams’ nine points in the first 1:45 of the game to put Hendricken on its heels and cause Gomes to call the aforementioned timeout.
But, after that, the Hawks would settle in.
Bobby Fiorito drove to the tin and converted an and-1 a few minutes later to trim Hendricken’s deficit to four, and Andre De Los Santos grabbed an offensive board and scored less than a minutes later to make it a one-possession game.
With 4:51 left in the first half, Hendricken was able to take its first lead of the game on a De Los Santos and-1. Seconds later, Weeks stole the ball and cruised in uncontested for a vicious one-handed jam, triggering La Salle head coach Eric Simonelli to take a full timeout to talk things over.
The Hawks ultimately held a 32-30 edge at the break.
They were able to keep their momentum going with some big plays from De Los Santos in the first few minutes of the second half, as he grabbed another offensive board and scored to up Hendricken’s advantage to 11 with 12 minutes left.
De Los Santos stepped up with 11 points and 11 rebounds to go along with a steal and a block.
“He was a beast,” Gomes said of De Los Santos. “He and I had a long conversation in my office about his role and what he needed to do every single day to be a successful player because he can be an excellent player. He rebounded the heck out of the ball today, finished around the basket, made the right passes. It was tremendous.”
Hendricken started the second half with an 18-6 run over the first six minutes, capped by a Fiorito steal and dish to Watson for a fast break layup to make it 50-36.
La Salle trimmed that deficit slightly to 10 with a couple minutes to go, but a corner 3 by Watson sealed the deal for the Hawks, who improved to a perfect 7-0 in league play.
“I’m proud of all the guys,” Gomes said. “It was a team effort. I thought Bobby Fiorito had a big game for us, Jalen hit some timely shots, T.J. was T.J., Angel (Sanchez) made some clutch free throws and we had some guys come off the bench and keep things where we needed them to be. I’m pleased with our guys, but we still have a lot to work on.”
Weeks finished with a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Sanchez chipped in 11 points.
Hendricken was set to take on Mount Pleasant on Monday, but results were unavailable at press time. The Hawks will then host Woonsocket on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“We have a big week coming up,” Gomes said. “We have Mount Pleasant on Monday and Woonsocket on Wednesday, so this is a good building block.”