WOONSOCKET — At this point Woonsocket High has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
In a season short on results and long on frustrating moments, head coach Kyle Ivey-Jones has decided to turn over a new leaf and give some of program’s younger players the chance to hang with the varsity. Several Villa Novans received their baptism-by-fire Monday night with Bishop Hendricken serving as the instructor in a 55-32 Hawk win.
After his team’s latest setback, Ivey-Jones talked about the decision to promote a handful of members from the Novans’ successful junior varsity program, which improved to 11-2 after knocking off the Hawks.
“It was just a chance for them to get out there and get their feet wet,” explained the coach. “They’re playing very well at the J.V. level so sooner or later they’re going to get some varsity minutes.”
Among those taking the floor for the first time in a varsity setting include Lewis Garcia, Ethan Bouzan, Gabe Rodriguez, Piotre Linek and Geovanni Rodriguez. There’s also another side of this youth movement to consider, which is that Ivey-Jones is attempting to light a fire under his current crop of Villa Novans, informing them without directly speaking to them that if you don’t perform up to your capabilities, your minutes will be awarded to someone else. The Novans fell to 0-6 in Division I-North, 1-9 overall.
Junior Cody L’Heureux was the only Novan to show a pulse on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 17 points on three 3-pointers and 8-of-8 from the foul line. Two of L’Heureux’s makes from deep came just before the half to cut Hendricken’s lead to 27-15 at intermission.
It’s no secret that turnovers were Woonsocket’s biggest bugaboo. The Villa Novans committed 15 in the opening half and finished the game with 26. In one stretch in the first half, Woonsocket turned the ball over on five consecutive possessions, mistakes that allowed Hendricken (2-4 Div. I-South) to open the game up at 22-7 with 3:01 remaining.
“You can’t overcome that,” stated Ivey-Jones matter-of-factly.
The two sides differed on how the Hawks were able to break the game open. Hendricken head coach Jamal Gomes credited his team’s full-court trap, which played into his strategy of increasing the tempo and getting quick points in transition. The Hawks have encountered difficulty when it comes to scoring in half-court sets, eclipsing the 60-point plateau just once in the team’s first five league games entering Monday.
“Both of our teams, mine and Kyle’s, have been struggling, and I think that was quite evident with the way both teams played today,” Gomes said. “Our issue is finishing. A lot of times we end up getting into rock fights with teams and it comes down to us and our ability to finish.
“Today we wanted to get as many layups as possible,” Gomes went on. “Create that high speed and get some stuff off the press.”
Ivey-Jones had a different take regarding why the Villa Novans encountered choppy waters in an attempt to navigate through and around the Hawks’ trap. “They (meaning the Hawks) were just standing there and getting deflections, which resulted in easy baskets.”
Things didn’t any easier for Woonsocket in the second half. The Novans went nearly seven minutes without recording a field goal with only a single free throw registered over that span. The struggles allowed the Hawks to take their greatest lead, 48-18, with 7:48 to play.
With the exception of L’Hueruex, Ivey-Jones chose to go with the young guns the rest of the game, which could become more of a regular occurrence moving forward.
RIM RATTLERS: Monday’s game between the Hawks and Novans was designated as The American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer game of the week. Woonsocket athletic director George Nasuti reports that through the generosity of those in attendance, Woonsocket was able to contribute $356 to this worthy cause. A second Coaches vs. Cancer game at Woonsocket High will take place this Friday when the Novans’ girls’ basketball team hosts Lincoln High.