BVP tackles tough non-league schedule

BVP tackles tough non-league schedule

Blackstone Valley Prep senior guard Wandy Henrriquez, left, gets ready to make his move on a North Smithfield player during last week’s non-league game at the Pride’s gymnasium. Henrriquez led the Pride with 11 points and four assists, but the Northmen won the game. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
With first senior class leading the way, Pride sets sights on battling for CPL title

CUMBERLAND – In order to prepare his team for what he hopes will be a strong run to the Coastal Prep League championship, Blackstone Valley Prep head coach Kevin Payette did his best to piece together a tough non-league schedule loaded with R.I. Interscholastic League teams that would challenge his team night in and night out and make them a better unit down the road.

He started it off by throwing two Division II teams, Moses Brown and Rogers, into the second week of the season, and right after Christmas, he invited a Division I team, Hope, to play the Pride.

After that came two neighboring Division III teams, Mount Saint Charles and North Smithfield, and just when you thought the Pride were done taking their non-league tests, two more are on the schedule near the end of the month in the form of Cranston West, another D-I team, and Providence Country Day, a Class D team in the NEPSAC (New England Prep School Athletic Council).

So far, the results in those games have been mixed – the Pride defeated Moses Brown, 45-41, and MSC, 53-41, but suffered lopsided losses lost to Rogers, Hope, and North Smithfield – but those wins and losses have meant very little to Payette.

“Our non-league schedule has been very good for us,” Payette said last Wednesday, Jan. 3, after his team’s game against the Northmen. “It’s humbling for us in a way because we’ve had some big wins in our league point-wise. I think we were feeling really good about ourselves, but then we came down to reality a little bit with a couple of these (losses), and they’ve been good for us as far as teaching goes.”

As far as the Pride’s play in the CPL, they entered Wednesday night’s game against Highlander Charter School of Providence with a 3-0 mark, and that was a showdown that could be a preview of the CPL semifinals or championship game, which are scheduled during the first week in March.

“We should be in pretty good shape for our league,” added Payette. “We should be competing for the top couple (of spots in the standings), but we haven’t played the traditional top two teams yet, Highlander or Times2 Academy. The last few years, they have been really good teams.”

During those last few years, the senior-less Pride had gone through their growing pains against their older opponents, but this winter, they finally have their first senior class, which includes seasoned four-year veterans such as point guard Wandy Henrriquez, forward/guard James McKee, power forward Mikey Correa, and guard Ray Varone back in the starting lineup. Hennriquez is averaging a team-high 14 points per game, and in the victory over Mount, he had a big night with 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Senior forwards Misael Cortes and Olajide Adeleke and junior guard Fawas Onifade are three more experienced players who have played valuable roles off the bench, and two underclassmen have also stood out for the Pride. Freshman forward Xavier Mendez has cracked the starting lineup and is averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds a game – he had a breakout night against Moses Brown with 10 points and 17 boards – and sophomore guard Jarell Carlos has also given BVP a huge lift off the bench.

“We have six seniors, but we have some talent with our younger guys,” added Payette. “Xavier and Jarrel are good players and two big pieces for us. We didn’t expect to have either of them, but getting them has been a big improvement for us.”

Another big newcomer has been the school’s new gymnasium. After having to hit the road for “home” games at nearby Davies Tech and practices in the basement of St. James Church in Manville and the Segue Institute for Learning Charter School in Central Falls, the Pride now has a gym on their Macondray Street campus that they can indeed call their home. On the gym’s opening night on Dec. 7, the Pride delighted a standing-room-only crowd by blasting Barrington Christian in their CPL opener, 56-31.

“It’s a big difference,” said Payette. “We’re very happy. We’ve always had to take a bus to practice and play 19 games (a season) on the road, so just to finally have that home court is really nice.”

With BVP’s boys’ and girls’ soccer and girls’ basketball teams in their second seasons in the RIIL, Payette said that he hasn’t come close to making a decision on if or when his team will also make the move. There’s still plenty of basketball to be played this year, as well as some more teaching to do, and he said that if he ever decides to make the move, he wants to stay in the RIIL for good and not have to leave it, which is what Times2 did in 2005 after four seasons in the state’s bottom division produced just seven victories.

“At the end of the year, we’ll evaluate where we are,” said Payette. “We’re still a very small school, with about 315 kids, but we’re moving in the right direction in a lot of ways. But I don’t want to rush anything. Some teams have gone (to the RIIL) and come back because they weren’t ready, and I don’t want to do that. When we’re ready to go, then let’s go, but let’s see first where all the pieces fall.”

BVPs next CPL game is Friday at 7 p.m. in Narragansett against the Middlebridge School, and the following Friday night, they will head to Providence for a clash with Times2. Their next home game is on Monday, Jan. 22, against Middlebridge.

BVP senior forward Mikey Correa, left, gets ready to toss in a tough layup over the reach of a North Smithfield player. Correa, a Cumberland resident, scored eight points and had as many rebounds.
Blackstone Valley Prep sophomore guard Jarell Carlos, left, gets ready to put in a layup as a North Smithfield player unsuccessfully tries to block his shot during the Pride’s loss last week to the Northmen.