The Hawks outlasted the Central High School Knights 76-61 on Thursday night in Division I basketball at Bishop Hendricken High School.
Hendricken was led by Sebastian Thomas who scored 21 points and Andre De Los Santos with 16 points. Tyriek Weeks, a sophomore, added 13 points and 11 rebounds, while junior Angel Sanchez chipped in 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and three steals.
The Knights leading scorers were Angel Santiago Mendez with 16 points, Jaquan Northup 15 and Jonathan Zapata, 13.
Central looked a lot sharper than its 1-11 record coming into the contest.
The teams exchanged blows early and, often, with the lead changing hands five times before Central held a 27-18 advantage with 5:05 remaining. That margin came after two treys from Zapata and two more from Northup, plus a layup from Santiago Mendez.
Hendricken’s De Los Santos ended that spurt with 3:40 remaining in the opening half when he scored with a putback layup.
The Hawks inched within 32-29 two and a half minutes later when Thomas and Robert Fiorito made layups. Thomas’ bucket came after he picked the pocket of a Central player.
Forty-nine seconds later, Hendricken knotted the game at 32 when Thomas earned a second steal and layup, before sophomore center Cam Hughes followed with a made free throw.
Though Central brought a 35-32 edge into the break after Northup buried a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 25.7 seconds on the clock.
A minute and a half into the second frame, Hendricken pulled within two, when Thomas sank a 3-ball and made it 37-35. Then, Hendricken deadlocked the game the game at 37 when Weeks blocked a shot and heaved the ball down the court to Thomas for a breakaway layup with 13:22 left.
Zapata answered the call for Central though, banging a 3-pointer from the top of the arc while putting the Knights back on top 40-37.
But with 12 minutes remaining, Hendricken went on a 6-0 run and took a 43-40 edge. That spurt saw Fiorito score with a layup and Sanchez, score a layup, plus two free throws.
Central wrestled the lead back to 46-45 lead with 10:14 left, when Santiago Mendez and Northup made back-to-back treys. But, after that, the Hawks never trailed again.
Hendricken went up 47-46 with 9:58 left when Sanchez assisted inside to Weeks for a turnaround jump shot.
From there, the Hawks added to their cushion.
Next, De Los Santos stole the ball from a Central player and passed ahead to Sanchez for a fast break layup, which upped the Hawks’ advantage to three.
A minute later, De Los Santos made another steal and layup, while upping the Hawks’ edge to 51-47.
With 7:39 remaining, Weeks added a jumper, which put the Hawks up 55-48.
Hendricken ballooned its advantage to 65-54 with 4:06 left when Thomas fed De Los Santos underneath for a layup, and the foul.
With 2:15 remaining, the Hawks extended their lead to 72-58 when Fiorito made a steal and got it to Sanchez for a fast break layup.
After that, Fiorito made a pair of free throws, and then, Weeks followed with a put back. The final basket of the contest came from Hendricken’s Jason Onye, who made a putback layup, which gave the Hawks the 76-61 victory.
It was another hard-fought victory for the Hawks, who continue to get every team’s greatest effort.
“You can never underestimate a team,” Sanchez said, “Since, we’re Hendricken, any team’s going to come and play hard and give their best game ever. So, we just can’t overlook any team. “We have to play defense every game.”
While the junior star was happy to get the victory, he knows his squad can improve.
“It feels good, but honestly, I feel like we could have played better,” Sanchez said. “I’m not saying Central’s a bad team, but honestly, for our own good, if we want to win a state championship, we have to play better than we did.”
Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes agreed.
“I told the guys in the locker room, after the game, that it doesn’t matter, which teams we’re playing, the best teams or the teams that may be struggling right now, we’re going to get everybody’s best,” Gomes said. “And if we allow teams to hang in and gain confidence, we’re going to be in a rock fight. And this was a great example of it today.”
“I think we had some good individual performances,” Gomes said. “But I think collectively as a group it wasn’t one of our better performances.”
“Me, I judge it really on defense,” Gomes continued. “I don’t think we came out with very strong defensive energy. We thrive off of our defense. And the first half, we didn’t quite bring the energy we needed to. I think in the second half we did. I think with our conditioning, we kind of out-conditioned Central. I think Central got a little tired down the stretch.”
“I’m proud of our guys,” Gomes said. “We came together and we really picked it up on the defensive end in the second half. My guys are kind of tired right now. We need a little bit of a break from basketball. Just to gain our mental and physical well-being. We’re just kind of worn out right now. So, we don’t play again till next Wednesday. We’ll take a little bit of a break, and then, we’ll get back at it.”
Hendricken, who improves to 13-0 in the division and 17-0 overall is off to its best start in 25 years. Nonetheless, the perfect season has taken a bit of a toll on the players.
“It’s difficult to be at where we are in the season,” Gomes said. “That’s hard to do. The accomplishment up to this point in time has been tremendous, but our goal is not regular season championships. Our goal is growing and improving every practice, every game, so that, we have our best chance to win state titles.”
Hendricken heads to Mount Pleasant (9-3) on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. start before traveling back home to host Classical (5-7) on Friday night at 7 p.m.