New England Roundup: Rhode Island

Instead of calling it the Rhode Island interscholastic League Boys’ State Swimming Championships, perhaps the event should be re-named “The Hendricken Invitational.”

Rhode IslandCoach Dave Hansen’s Hawks splashed their way to a mind-boggling 21st consecutive state title on February 20 – and it wasn’t even close. The Hawks amassed 314 points as compared with second-place Barrington who swam home with 194 at the University of Rhode Island.

What made this latest championship even more noteworthy was the fact Hendricken failed to win a single individual event. Hansen needed points from only eight swimmers to cop the school’s latest title. And the Hawks did their most damage by winning two relays. Ian Dinwoodie and Andrew Robinson swam in the meet’s final event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, while Mike Fedorenko, Alex Powers, Dave Evans and Jack Kilpatrick each were on one championship relay (the other was the 200-yard medley).

Hendricken earned 40 points by winning the 200 medley relay and recorded 54 points in the first individual event, the 200-yard freestyle. By the time the latter ended, the Hawks had a commanding lead.

Not to be overshadowed by Hendricken’s accomplishments was Narragansett’s Luca Spinazzola. Spinazzola, a senior, broke the URI pool and state high school record with a time of 49.74 seconds in the 100-yard backstroke and won the 500-yard freestyle in a state-record time of 41:35.56.


Maybe four consecutive state swim team championships doesn’t compare with Hendricken’s 21. But that doesn’t mean the La Salle Academy girls were less pleased with their accomplishment at the state team meet.

The Rams annexed 376 points – winning all three relays in the process – and exited the premises with their fourth consecutive team title. Bay View Academy was a distant second with 212 points.

Georgi Pettibone delivered La Salle’s only individual title as she captured the 100-yard breaststroke. But by winning three relays, the Rams earned 120 points – nearly one-third of their overall total. Pettibone also teamed with her sister, Mari, to finish 1-2 in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Three swimmers from other teams delivered two championships apiece: Narragansett’s Bianca Spinazzola in the 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke; Bay View’s Bethany Douglas in the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley; and Cumberland’s Courtney Kent in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles.


Believe it or not, Hendricken has another team that’s won an unbelievable number of consecutive state championships. In this case it’s the Hendricken boys’ indoor track and field team.

The Hawks won two relays and scored points in nine events to record 74 points for their 17th consecutive team championship. La Salle was a fairly distant second with 51 points. Hendricken received key points from Andy Sakovits who finished second in the 600 and ran a leg on the victorious 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams.

Chariho’s Innocent Jacob and Cranston West’s Bobby Allen captured two victories apiece. Jacob won the high jump (6-foot-10) and the long jump (23-8) while Allen ran home first in the 3000 and the 1500.


Classical’s Joe Velez and Central Falls’ Aledio Fernandes barely had time to catch their breath after each won the weight throw in the boys’ and girls’ state team championships respectively.

Velez, 24 hours later, won the Scholastic Division at the USATAF New England Indoor Track and Field Championships at Harvard with a throw of 71-feet, 3 ΒΌ-inches. Fernandes emulated Velez and threw a season-best 57-feet, 81/2-inches to capture the Open Division.


The Mount St. Charles boys’ hockey team clinched the Division I regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming state tournament by blanking Moses Brown, 6-0, belting Burrillville, 8-1 and routing North Kingstown, 14-0.

The Mounties are 15-1-1 with 31 points – six more than Hendricken and Moses Brown who are tied for second with identical 12-3-1 records.


Cranston West’s Brian Yarce and Westerly’s Max Motroni became the latest members of the 1,000-point career club.

Yarce poured in 24 points during a Division I victory over Central to surpass that mark while Motroni, a junior, went over the top when he scored 13 during a 78-75 Division II win over West Warwick.


The RIIL boys’ basketball playoffs commenced in each of the three divisions.

Following are the more noteworthy results:

  • In Division I, No. 3 Hendricken outlasted No. 6 La Salle, 62-59, in a quarterfinal game. Tim Lyons (19) paced the Hawks while La Salle’s Jared Thompson scored a game-high 22 points.

  • In Division II, Barrington’s Ben Engvall scored 24 of his overall 28 points in the first half as the No. 6 Eagles upset No. 3 Tiverton, 68-59, in a preliminary round game.

  • Neighborhood rivals Tolman (Pawtucket) and Central Falls hooked up in a Division II preliminary round game and the No. 8 Tigers beat the No. 9 Warriors, 78-67. Juan Velez poured in 20 of his overall 26 points in the second half to lead Tolman.

  • In Division III, top-seeded Johnston beat No. 8 Exeter/West Greenwich, 68-48 in a quarterfinal game as Ryan Anderson and Isaac Medeiros combined for 56 of the Panthers’ points.


Don’t look now but the hottest girls’ basketball team in the state might be Central High.

The Knights recorded their eight consecutive Division III victory on February 22 by outlasting previously undefeated Middletown, 46-42. With the score tied at 41 and 1:40 left in regulation, Central’s Malika Manning drained a 3-point shot that put the Knights ahead for good. After the final buzzer sounded, Middletown (16-1, 20-1) still was in first place, North Smithfield (14-3) was in second and Central (13-4) was in third.

The upset left the Knights with a chance to finish second and earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs.


If the name Garrick sounds familiar, it should. Tyreese Garrick, the niece of former University of Rhode Island star Tommy Garrick, became the ninth female player in West Warwick school history to score 1,000 points in her career.

Garrick, a senior, became the first Wizard to reach that plateau since Nina Bliss in 2001 when she dropped in 17 points during a victory over Narragansett.


One of Rhode Island’s iconic high school football coaches, Rogers’ John Toppa, passed away on February 14 at the age of 79.

Toppa, who began his coaching career at Woonsocket in 1954 (he moved to Rogers in 1958) amassed 266 victories, 11 state championships and 13 division titles in a 36-year career. Toppa retired after the 1990 season and, in an understatement, went out on a high note since his Vikings had compiled a three-year undefeated streak. In addition, he was a member of the RIIL Hall of Fame, the Providence Gridiron Club Hall of Fame and the Rhode Island Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.