EAST PROVIDENCE — Both the East Providence High School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams recently completed superb seasons, each finishing among the leaders in their respective divisions while also advancing to their state championship tournaments.
The Townies were well represented on postseason awards lists as well, including the coaches. The Rhode Island Basketball Coaches Association Division I boys’ hoops coach of the year award had a distinctly local flavor as first-year EPHS head coach Joe Andrade shared honors with city native and renowned St. Raphael Academy head coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine. Sorrentine's Saints lost to Hendricken in the D-I title game and have advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament. In addition, EPHS girls’ head coach Mike Solitro took home RIBCA honors for Division II after leading the Townies to arguably their finest season ever in the 40-plus year history of the program.
Boys’ All-Star notes
Following the graduation of most of its key contributors and the resignation of its long-time head coach, questions abounded as EPHS took to the court this winter under Andrade, who served as an assistant with the program for 10 seasons prior to taking over the top job.
Small forward Deyshawn Tengbeh emerged as the team’s best all-around player as he led the way for the Townies receiving postseason accolades. The junior was selected by the D-I coaches as a first-team All-League performer encompassing the entirety of Division I after he led E.P. during the regular season in scoring at 15.6 points per game.
Tengbeh, who was among the team leaders in rebounds as well at around seven per game, was also selected first-team All-Division I-Central.
Dion Hazard, the Townies’ sophomore point guard, and Kyerstan Casey, a senior, were chosen as members of the All-I-Central second team. Hazard was the team leader in assists at seven per night while scoring at just about 13 ppg. Casey averaged around 11 ppg from his spot on the wing.
Girls’ All Star notice
The EPHS girls, meanwhile, built off the momentum of a return to the league playoffs last winter following a two-year absence, though did so in spite of losing the program’s second-ever 1,000 career point scorer Angela Leonardo to graduation.
The Townies shared the wealth on the court and off it they were well represented on the league postseason awards list led by Shania Hazard, who was tabbed both as first-team All-Division II and All-II-South. Hazard was second leading scorer for E.P. during the regular season at 12.4 points per game and the team’s defensive catalyst.
Lillian Conti was selected by the league coaches as first-team II-South and Honorable Mention All-Division after pacing the Townies with a 13.8 ppg average. Julia Andrade was chosen third-team II-South while Courtney Dorr (11.4 pig) and Amber Drainville were given Honorable Mention notice.
Andrade led a young and relatively inexperienced group of the Townies to first place in the I-Central standings with a 12-6 record. E.P. qualified for both the D-I and Open State Tourney playoffs for a second year in a row, winning a game in each before falling the quarterfinals of both events. The Townies under Andrade’s direction closed out the 2016-17 campaign with an 18-9 overall record, including non-league and postseason games.
“It's an honor to be voted by the coaches. Many have been very complimentary all year and supportive so I appreciate that. It means a lot to me and what I'm trying to build,” Andrade said of the recognition.
After missing out on the first four editions of the Open State Tourney, the Townies have not only earned a bid the last two seasons, but won a game in both and not so coincidentally the program’s leaders were rewarded with honors. Last winter, former EPHS head coach Alex Butler also took home the RIBCA coach of the year award after he led a senior-laden group of Townies to a 12-4 regular season record and spots in both postseason tournament, D-I and Open State.
Andrade wasn’t alone in earning coaching accolades at EPHS as girls’ head coach Solitro took home RIBCA honors for Division II by guiding the Townies to a second-place finish in the II-South regular season standings, reached the league championship playoff game for the first time in program history and their first-ever appearance in the four-year-old version of the female Open State Tournament.
East Providence made its second consecutive trip to the league playoffs this winter after having missed the postseason the previous two years. The Townies lost to Johnston in the D-II title game then defeated D-III champ Wheeler in the Sweet 16 of the Open Tourney before falling to LaSalle in the quarterfinals. The Townies wound up with a 23-5 overall record to conclude the 2016-17 season, including non-league and playoff games.