Portsmouth High freshmen team falls to Hawks in title game

Patriots led for much of the game, despite missing key player

By Jim McGaw
Posted 2/16/20

PORTSMOUTH — Despite being a group its coach said was held together with “Scotch tape and toothpicks,” the Portsmouth High freshmen basketball team nearly pulled off a miracle …

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Portsmouth High freshmen team falls to Hawks in title game

Patriots led for much of the game, despite missing key player

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Despite being a group its coach said was held together with “Scotch tape and toothpicks,” the Portsmouth High freshmen basketball team nearly pulled off a miracle win over Bishop Hendricken in the state championship game on Saturday.

Although the Patriots led for most of the game due to their stifling defense and 3-point shooting — they were up by 12 points early in the second half — the Hawks battled back to win, 53-45, in what was a physical, sometimes sloppy, chaotic and at times contentious game.

Portsmouth was looking to avenge its regular-season, seven-point loss to Bishop Hendricken, but the team was dealt a significant blow before it even took to the court at Barrington High School on Saturday.

“I got late word that one of our point guards and probably our best offensive player, Calvin Lucenti, was down with the flu today,” Patriots head coach Michael Brennan said after the game. “He does a lot of different things for us, and we lean on him a little bit when it comes to scoring.”

His young team, which was also facing a distinct size disadvantage against the Hawks, was up to the challenge, however.

“We knew it was going to be a struggle against these guys and I told our guys, ‘Listen, we don’t have him, but it doesn’t change anything. That’s why we work at practice, that’s why we run our sets.’ I preach team all the time; that’s why we’re all so connected.”

In the first half, Portsmouth’s strong defense seem to confuse the Hawks, who kept turning the ball over either through steals, bad passes or traveling violations. During a timeout, Hawks head coach Matt D’Ambra berated his players for what he deemed their weak performance.

The Patriots led by as many as 10 points in the first half and went out to a 12-point lead early in the second half after a layup by Charlie Townsend.

However, they started missing shots as the game grew more physical. The Hawks crawled back and finally tied the game at 33 apiece with a 3-pointer with 5:10 left. 

It was the Patriots who had trouble holding on to the ball in the second half, and Bishop Hendricken converted those turnovers into baskets. Portsmouth also wasn’t getting many second chances, while the larger Hawks dominated the boards on both ends of the court. 

What hurt Portsmouth the most, however, was losing guard Luke Brennan and center Henry Rodrigues, who both fouled out with several minutes still left to play.

“Luke Brennan is our other guard and he does a lot of stuff for us. He’s our defensive heart beat. He gets us into our sets, he brings pressure for us, so losing him was difficult,” said Mr. Brennan of his son. “We had to sit him out for a bit because he was in foul trouble, and then we had to take him out with five or six minutes left in the game, and that changed everything.”

The team also lost its center, “big Henry Rodrigues,” with five minutes left. “But I told the guys, ‘Next man up,’ and they came in and they performed admirably.”

‘Incredibly proud’

That was no surprise to Mr. Brennan. 

“The one thing I was positive these guys were going to do today, was they were going to come out and bring 100 percent of themselves, and they did that all game. I’m disappointed with the results, but they left everything, and then some, on the floor. I’m incredibly proud of this group of young men on the floor — as men first, and athletes second,” he said.

His assistant coach, Mike Rodrigues — ‘One of the best people on the planet,’ Mr. Brennan said — also has a son on the team, Henry. They all go way back.

“We were on one knee pitching to these guys then they were 5 and 6 years old in Little League. What a treat it was for us to be able to roll with these guys this season and enjoy all of them,” said Mr. Brennan. 

“It was incredibly fun to watch them turn into men, so now we get to turn them over and just watch. Now my heart rate can come down a little bit and I can just enjoy them a bit more from the outside. Our work here is done.”

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