Two island seniors focus on another championship run
This year, with the help of Jamestown seniors Steve Santos and Romil Patel, the Skippers plan to make another run at the title, and they realize that they might have to go through seventime defending champion Hendricken to reach that goal.
During the regular season last year, North Kingstown became just the second team in the last five years to defeat the Hawks in their own gym. As fate would have it, the Skippers went on the road and took down Hendricken again this year, 60-56, in an overtime thriller on Dec. 13. Santos made two field goals, went 3-5 from the free-throw line and scored a season-high seven points in the overtime victory that was described as a championship game rematch with “lateseason intensity.”
Santos, a starter who plays both forward and center, is curious about how the postseason match-ups will be affected since the playoff format changed. For the first time, both Hendricken and North Kingstown play in Division-I South.
Despite the new division realignment, the Skippers are playing as well as they were under the old format. They have started the season 7-1 and Patel says that 22-year-old head coach Aaron Thomas is a big part of that.
“[He has] a high basketball IQ and is someone who is very good at what he does.” Patel said. “Thomas seems to know what teams are going to do before they do.”
Santos said that after every game the coach reminds the team that “we can get better.” To that end the boys said that they spend anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes watching film the day after a game. They added that practices run two hours a day, and even longer when they lift weights. The team is together six or seven days a week, which creates a good team chemistry.
Patel, who was recently accepted by early decision to George Washington University where he intends to study biomedical engineering, hasn’t seen a lot of game time this season as he recovers from an ACL surgery that he underwent in July.
He suited up for only the second time this season and saw some action in the Barrington Boosters Holiday Tournament played on Dec. 29 and 30. The Skippers clobbered Burrillville, 82-27, and beat Situate handily by a score of 76-31. He scored four points in his season debut against Burrillville.
North Kingstown features a very strong starting five and a deep bench, according to Patel and Santos. The team is led by junior captain Rob Hazard, a shooting guard who is the top scorer for the Skippers. Santos said Hazard has been playing varsity ball since his freshman year and the two agreed that Hazard’s jump from middle school to varsity basketball speaks of his talent. Hazard has been described as an “explosive player” who has the ability to score from the inside or outside.
Twins Mike and Evan Scott are both 6-feet-4-inches tall and are both juniors and the point guard position is shared between seniors Gabe Martino and Cody Barner, and sophomore Matt Quainoo.
Derryck Kilgore, a senior captain who averaged nearly 15 points per game last season, scores and rebounds well, and is an excellent all-round player, according to Santos and Patel.
Patel said that the team is the deepest that it has been in a long time and that a seven-man rotation last year has become a nineor 10-man rotation this year.
In terms of team weaknesses, both agreed that there have been too many turnovers this season and that the team has been inconsistent in taking care of the ball.
Sophomore Owen Heath, also a Jamestowner, suits up for both the junior varsity and varsity games. Heath is coached on the junior varsity team by islander James Simmons.
The only loss of the season for the Skippers came at the hands of a Coventry team that “got out and ran,” Santos said. The 89-81 loss came on Dec. 20.
“They were fast and they shot 67 percent from the floor, and [exposed] our transition defense,” said Patel.
Only Portsmouth and La Salle remain undefeated in Division I. Both are on the Skipper’s schedule in January – they play La Salle tomorrow and Portsmouth on Jan. 25. North Kingstown’s remaining schedule will also include a home game against Hendricken on Feb. 4, and a trip to Coventry for their regular-season finale on Feb. 10.
It’s anyone’s guess whether or not the Skippers will be at the top of the heap in March – Santos and Patel just smile knowingly and look hopeful.