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Sports Spotlight: BHS Boys Quintet Qualifies for Sectional Tourney Again

Feb 28, 2019 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

BHS Boys Basketball Team

The Bellingham High boys basketball team qualified for the Division 3 Central Sectional Tournament by defeating Holliston, 56-33, on Jan. 22. At that time, the victory gave the Blackhawks a 10-3 record, which clinched a playoff berth for the second consecutive year.
In the regular-season finale on Feb. 15, the Blackhawks had a chance to add the Tri Valley League Small Division title to their laurels but bowed to Medway, 41-38, in a thriller. Trailing by 22 at halftime, BHS rallied but the Mustangs held on to claim the small-division crown.
Coach TJ Chiappone’s squad finished the regular season with a 15-5 record. “We were extremely happy to qualify early and get an opportunity to compete for a higher seed in the tourney,’’ said Chiappone, who’s in his eighth year as head coach. “We were able to overcome two key injuries and still qualify with seven games remaining.’’

The injuries forced Chiappone’s son, Corey, to miss nine games because of a dislocated elbow and Tyler Warren to miss five contests because of a sprained ankle.

BHS will be facing some formidable foes in the tourney and could be matched against Hudson, Greater Lowell, Bartlett, Northbridge, Whitinsville-Christian or Dover-Sherborn. “We’re in the mix and we’ll give it our best shot,’’ Chiappone noted. Last year, the Blackhawks defeated Greater Lowell, then bowed to Whitinsville-Christian in the second round.

This year’s squad, however, has a plethora of strengths that include a tenacious defense, consistent effort, excellent team chemistry, a high basketball IQ and athleticism.

“Our team defense has been excellent,’’ Chiappone said. “We’ve given up an average of only 41 points a game. That’s a credit to the entire team but players like Phil Jones, Tate Pike, Justin Crayton, Jack Buckley and Mitch Olson have really stepped up. I’m also pleased with how consistent our intensity and effort have been. Team chemistry is a plus too. With 12 seniors on our 18-man roster, they all seem to care about each other. We’ve got about six players who don’t get a minute of playing time, yet they still come to practice and give a huge effort. I wish we could reward them for that.’’

If BHS is to advance deep into the playoffs, it will need to improve in two areas—offensive production and free-throw shooting. “We’ve got to be better on offense,’’ Chiappone said. “We’re averaging about 49 points a game. Our free-throw shooting also must get better, but our kids are very capable of making those improvements.’’

Since qualifying after beating Holliston, BHS won five of its final seven games. “Our improvement is showing on offense and some of that is a result of getting Corey back,’’ Chiappone said. “It took a while but he’s getting comfortable in his role (point guard).’’
The setback against Medway featured two dramatic momentum swings. The Mustangs were red hot early, taking a 20-5 lead after the first quarter and managing to surge ahead, 35-13, at halftime.

The Blackhawks, however, weren’t about to surrender. Warren, Pike, and Jones heated up, giving BHS an 18-2 advantage in the third stanza and only a six-point deficit to start the last quarter. Missed shots in the fourth period limited both teams and, when the dust settled, BHS outscored Medway by 7-4 in the quarter, resulting in a three-point loss.

Outscoring Medway, 25-6, in the second half and losing a close encounter no doubt taught the Blackhawks a valuable lesson as they prep for the tourney. “It shows that the kids believe in themselves,’’ Chiappone said. “They played with effort, heart and intensity. The second half output gives us confidence if we get into a tough spot in the playoffs. The entire team deserves credit for the way we battled back.’’

Jayvee assistant coach Kevin Grupposo summed up the season’s finale on a positive note: “This kind of game bodes well for the playoffs,’’ he said.

BHS Sextet Showing Improvement

The Bellingham High ice hockey team is definitely heading in the right direction. Last year, coach Joe Robidoux’s team was winless with two ties in 20 games. This year, the Blackhawks were sporting a 4-13-2 record at the Bulletin’s deadline with one game left on their schedule.
“I’m optimistic about next year,’’ Robidoux said. “We’ll lose only two seniors and have close to 20 players returning. Our experience and team chemistry should be a plus going forward.’’

The senior co-captains—defenseman Kyle Robitaille and forward-defenseman Kyle McCann—provided quality leadership. “Both are good students and definitely had a solid presence in the locker room,’’ said Robidoux. “Their play and their demeanor were major assets.’’
Cameron Lahue, a junior from Blackstone-Millville, gave the Blackhawks steady goaltending all year long. “Cameron is technically sound,’’ Robidoux said. “He kept us in many games, and his experience next year will be a big plus.’’

Junior left wing Matt Pelletier and junior center Jace Rudolph will return next year and should provide top-notch play. “Both play at a high level,’’ Robidoux said. “They’re exciting to watch, they’re skilled and they get a lot of minutes.”

Junior Jake Schultz, a forward-defenseman, and sophomore forward Brad Swain will be counted on after gaining added experience this year. “They should be top-caliber contributors next season,’’ Robidoux said. “They gave us great effort on power plays and penalty-killing situations.’’

Robidoux firmly believes that qualifying for tournament play next year is realistic, and he’s expecting many of his players to be competing in the off-season in summer and fall league hockey.

Hall of Fame Nomination Deadline March 31

Nominations for prospective inductees into The Bellingham High Athletic Hall of Fame must be submitted by March 31. Forms are available on the high school website:

When completed, forms can be mailed or submitted to Helen Whiting, the Hall of Fame secretary, or BHS Athletic Director Michael Connor at the high school on 60 Blackstone St.
The date for the second induction ceremony is Friday, Nov. 29. Six athletes, two coaches and two teams were inducted at the first dinner/ceremony last November: Glen Gariepy, Rick Santos, Brenna Elliott, Ron Russell, Stacey Blue, Matt Blue, Ron Bonnollo, Frank Flynn (posthumously), the 1985 field hockey team and the 1983 basketball squad.

Wynn Sets Record at TVL Track Meet

Bellingham High sophomore Akeem Wynn Jr. set a school indoor record and won the high jump at the Tri Valley League Meet at the Reggie Lewis Center on Feb. 2, going 6 feet, 2-1/4 inches. The old record was 6 feet, 2 inches, set in 1981 by Bob Shugrue. Wynn also placed sixth in the 55 dash in a time of 6.97 seconds.

Other BHS placements were recorded by freshman Dan Kurczy and sophomore Emily Janell. Kurczy finished sixth and set a freshman record in the 1000 in a time of 2:49.35. Janell tied for sixth in the high jump with a leap of 4 feet, 8 inches. Her time was a personal best.
The Norton boys and the Hopkinton girls were meet champions.

BHS Girls Hoop Coach Plans on Returning

The Bellingham High girls basketball team had a difficult 2018-19 season, finishing with a 1-19 record. In spite of a two-year record of 1-39, coach Megan Puopolo says she has every intention of returning to get the program headed in the right direction.
“I’m an optimist,’’ Puopolo said. “I want to return because I think the future could be bright. There’s talent in Bellingham and the eighth-graders coming up have some talent.’’
The Blackhawks lost three players to injury and illness in the second half of the season, dashing any hopes of pulling off an upset. The most serious setback came against Medway when Liz D’Agostino tore an ACL and missed the final eight games of the campaign. Charlotte Macgregor suffered an ankle injury, missing two contests, and Riley Chiappone was out two games because of illness. D’Agostino scored 18 points against Norton and was 4-for-4 against Medway before tearing her ACL.

Puopolo used sophomore Mckenna Costello in the post and eighth-grader Daila Goodoff at point guard as the season came to a close. “Mckenna and Daila both worked hard and played well,’’ Puopolo said. “We ended the season playing two eighth-graders and three freshmen.’’
Puopolo is emphasizing off-season work to her players, and they’ll get a chance during the last two weeks of June when she’ll be conducting a clinic for boys and girls K—8 at the high school.






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