What a year in sport


As we wrap up 2023, there were plenty of special moments to celebrate and remember from the sports calendar. Many of our teams enjoyed the highs of championships and endured the lows of winless seasons, and everything in between.

Here are a few of my favorite moments of 2023:

The Division I boys hockey semifinal between the Warwick co-op and Hendricken Hawks was one of the best games of the year and made the hockey postseason one to remember.

The Pilgrim-Toll Gate union finally peaked last season when the Militia emerged as one of the best teams in the state. The public school kids pulled off a 5-2 regular season upset early in the regular season and then would go toe to toe with the eventual champs in the playoffs.

Although Hendricken would enjoy a thrilling comeback win, this game was a wild back and forth that really, in my opinion, cemented the argument for co-ops in the city. The Militia was split up this season which ended one of the great stories we’ve been enjoying the past few seasons. What a battle that was.

The Hendricken-La Salle rivalry was at full force in the basketball finals as well. The Rams would win at the buzzer to beat the Hawks for the Division I title, but Hendricken picked up a decisive victory at states just two weeks later.

The Hawks and Rams were even all season long which set up for a big battle at the Ryan Center. What was most memorable about that final game, though, was how point guard Mike Paquette led the Hawks to the win to eventually grab MVP honors. Eze Wali and Azmar Abdullah were the best 1-2 punch in the state, but Paquette’s masterpiece showed that basketball truly is a team sport.

Speaking of basketball masterpieces, Derek Salvatore put on a clinic in the Division II State Championship to lead Johnston to its first title since 1996. Salvatore took that game over in what was perhaps the most impressive single performance of the year 2023 for our teams.

The Pilgrim girls also took home a championship in basketball after coming so close not that long ago. Seeing Faith Meade and Gianna Ramos finally get a ring was special, as they were such staples for that program for four years.

When it comes to significance, perhaps the biggest story of the year came when Hendricken ace Alex Clemmey was selected by the Cleveland Guardians in the second round of the MLB Draft.

I remember the first time I covered Clemmey last spring was in an early game against Lincoln. Although I knew he was being scouted, although I knew that he was likely to be drafted, I had no idea what I was in for each time he took the mound.

Each start hosted numerous MLB scouts and various members of the media. He always generated big time buzz and for good reason … his stuff was electric. You could hear the ball whip out of his hands and pop when it hit the catcher’s mitt. The speed, velocity, precision. It was impressive.

The Cranston East softball team was a fun club to watch in the spring. After enduring multiple down seasons, including a winless 2022, the Bolts would bounce back and reach the playoffs in 2023.

It was also thrilling to see the Pilgrim and Toll Gate boys lacrosse teams revamp their rivalry as the Pats moved up to Division II and made the championship game while the Titans took a massive step forward as a program and reached the playoffs.

We’ll see how these teams look in 2024, but with many of the same players returning, I am excited to say that the rivalry is alive and well. Pilgrim will be a title favorite with Braxton Bragg and Ryan Barlow back in the mix.

The story of the fall was Hendricken getting back on top in football. Sure, the Hawks are always the favorite and have won 11 of the past 13 state championships, but the way they did it this year was remarkable, even for a private school team.

Sure, Central and North Kingstown pushed Hendricken in their meetings. However, it just never really felt like the Hawks were going to fall short. From start to finish, they dominated.

Even after losing starting quarterback Jayden Falcone to injury, the offense rolled with Dylan Lynch, Ronjai Francis and Oscar Weah. Rushaune Vilane proved to be a true Division I prospect with another stellar year on the defensive side.

The state championship game against the Skippers was close on paper until the fourth quarter, but again, it sort of encapsulated the season in that the game never felt in doubt despite the ups and downs.

There were far too many moments, teams, coaches and athletes to celebrate in one column, so, that being said, I am also announcing that our annual awards will return for their second year in next week’s editions across our three papers. Stay tuned.


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