Sharon’s Cosgrove Named Coach of the Year at RIC

Jenna Cosgrove
Sharon alum Jenna Cosgrove instructs her Rhode Island College team in a game earlier this season against Roger Williams. (Courtesy Photo)

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When Jenna Cosgrove took over the Rhode Island College program, the Anchorwomen had won only 19 games in the three previous seasons combined and had finished bottom of the Little East Conference with five wins in 2016-17. Three years later, RIC won 22 games (second-most in program history) and reached the conference championship game.

Cosgrove, who played basketball for four years at Sharon and then at Endicott College, was named the Little East Coach of the Year for bringing the RIC program back to the top of the league standings.

“It’s bittersweet right now because we just lost in the championship,” Cosgrove said in a phone conversation a few days after RIC’s 49-44 loss to Eastern Connecticut State in the conference title game. “In year three to take the team to the championship and receive an honor like this speaks volumes of the growing respect for the program.”

Despite 22 wins this winter, RIC just missed out on an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Cosgrove still saw a lot of growth for the program this season. She said, “I tell the kids we now should be a top 25 team. It raises the standards really high and it’s exciting for the program. I think our girls will be fired up next year to try and come back and win a championship.”

Coaching is a family trait. Cosgrove’s grandfather Jack helped found the Pop Warner football program in Sharon, coached several sports, and the middle school field was recently named in his honor. Her uncle Jack is the winningest football coach in University of Maine history and is still active as the head coach at Colby College.

Her interest in the profession led to a sports management degree at Endicott and shortly after graduating from college led to her taking jobs coaching AAU basketball at Mass Premier and as an assistant for Sharon coach Kate Horsmann.

At the age of just 23, Cosgrove got the opportunity to be an administrative assistant and support staff for the women’s basketball program at Fordham. “I jumped at it,” she explained. “It was a big leap of faith for me because obviously I was transitioning from Sharon to the Bronx at 23 and I didn’t know anybody.”

She traveled with the team, helped out at games and at practices, and, after the head coach left at the end of the season, was part of the interview process for new coach Stephanie Gaitley. The Rams had gone nearly two decades without a winning record but Gaitley turned the Rams into perennial league title contenders and had 20-plus wins in six of her first eight seasons in charge.

Cosgrove became an assistant coach after three years and eventually was named recruiting coordinator. After seven years in the Bronx, she took another leap and became the head coach at RIC. She took her experience and a lot of what she learned from Gaitley to help turn things around for the Anchorwomen.

“That journey being in New York, that really defined me as a coach and I learned from one of the best in the business at that level, but I spent a lot of time there and it got me to this job because I wanted to be back home, I wanted to be closer to family,” said Cosgrove. “It got me back to my roots and to be a head coach.”

She added, “I learned how to change culture from [Stephanie]. When she took over that program, we were at the bottom of the Atlantic 10 and within three years we won an A-10 championship. When I got here, we were at the bottom and I knew we would need to bring in good players, which we’ve done, but a big part of it is building culture and building confidence.”

The first season in charge was tough, but RIC doubled its win total in year two, finishing 18-9 and making it to the LEC semifinal. This year was even better, RIC finished at 22-5. Cosgrove admitted that there was a lot to learn in her first head coaching position.

“Jumping from being an assistant to head coach taught me more in that first year about myself, but it’s the most rewarding experience and I love being a head coach and I wouldn’t change anything,” she said.

Her time as a member of the support staff at Fordham and especially her time in recruiting prepared her for the challenges that coaches at the DIII level face. With much smaller staffs, DIII coaches have their hands in have aspect of the program and Cosgrove said it was a “competitive edge,” although in the end coaching is still about being able to work with and get the most out of a group of student-athletes.

“It’s about being able to really relate to the kids and to motivate the kids and really have that close relationship off the court,” Cosgrove said. “I was a good athlete but I don’t know if I ever really reached my potential. Part of my desire to coach is to instill that in other kids and get them to reach their potential and maximize their opportunity.”

“t’s the player connection. It’s being able to impact a player’s life. I look at my season ending and my two seniors and those kids are going to be in my life forever, in terms of being able to help impact and change their life.”

Being in charge of a DI program is a typical ambition for anyone in the coaching profession, but Cosgrove isn’t looking ahead.

“Right now, I just live in the moment,” she said. “I’m not done here. I want to win a championship. I think going from DI to DIII gives a lot of perspective, you hit a stage where you do really value balance and I think I’m in a really good spot right now.”

RIC will be happy to have her coming back, hungrier than ever after getting to the program’s first LEC final since 2014.

Late Push Lifts Stoughton Over Sharon in Finale

Stoughton girls basketball
Stoughton’s Aliyah Wright scored 10 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to close her high school career with a win against Sharon. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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STOUGHTON, Mass. – Stoughton and Sharon had combined for 13 points through the opening 12 minutes of the second half and the Black Knights went into the closing stretch holding onto a slim six-point lead in Friday night’s season finale for both teams. Needing a spark to finish with a win, Stoughton turned to its senior and leading scorer.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Shyanne Trinh scored five of her team-high 11 points in a 30-second span to turn a close game into a double-digit lead and the Black Knights scored the game’s final 10 points to pull out a 37-22 victory that split the season series with the Eagles.

“They knew it was their last game, so there was a lot of emotions for them,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan of her seniors, Trinh, Aliyah Wright, and Heather Papagno.

“It hasn’t been the easiest season for us because there’s been a lot of close games that they just didn’t finish off but tonight they fought and they’re a representation of what I hope for the future of this program with their heart and their hustle.”

Trinh hit a step-back, straightaway three for her first points of the second half and then Wright (10 points and 15 rebounds) grabbed a defensive board on the next Sharon possession and her quick look ahead found Trinh for a transition basket.

After not having scored for more than four minutes in the fourth, Stoughton found the spark it needed to put the game away. A couple of free throws and a runner off the glass by Jess Maddalena sealed the win.

Sharon (4-16) was held to only eight points after the break and the 15-point deficit at the final whistle could have been much narrower, but the Eagles shot only 8-for-27 from the line and made only two shots from the field in the second half.

“Especially against a team that’s playing a zone, you’re attacking the rim but you’ve got to finish or get to the line, which we did but just couldn’t hit our foul shots tonight,” said Sharon coach Sandy Lombardi.

The hosts got off to a strong start to the game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Wright scored six in the first quarter, including a defensive rebound that she turned into a fastbreak layup. Mackenzie Manning also started well, scoring five of her seven points in the first. She buried a three that put Stoughton ahead 13-3.

Kaitlyn Wallace (six points and eight rebounds) made a three in the first and Leah Fandel got her first points on an offensive rebound, but the Eagles trailed 16-6 after one.

Lombardi said. “I knew being their senior night that they were going to come out rip-roaring and ready to go and we beat them last time, so maybe a revenge night on senior night. They came out and were ready to play and I don’t think we were at the beginning of the game.”

Offense became a grind for both teams starting in the second, as they combined for three made field goals, Fandel (10 points and 11 rebounds) had both buckets for the Eagles and scored five points in the quarter, but Sharon only managed eight points in the second.

The positive for the Eagles was defense, as they held the Black Knights to only seven. Trinh scored four for Stoughton, including a tough runner, but it was the only made shot in the second.

“Our defense always keeps us in games,” said Lombardi. “I thought we played pretty good defense. We just sometimes struggle to score and that’s what happens tonight.”

It remained a struggle on offense heading out of halftime.

Sharon made only one shot in the third, a Fandel post move off an assist from Ally Brown, and knocked down three free throws (on eight attempts). Stoughton managed to hit two shots, one from Wright off a Trinh assist and another on a Manning drive to the rim, but those were the only points from the Black Knights, who led 27-19 heading to the fourth.

Steele Jordan said, “Every time we’ve got to play them, you just know it’s going to be a fight. We’re crosstown rivals and it’s a battle. Wallace is a tough player and No. 1 (Fandel), they were exposing us on the low block.”

Brown got the fourth quarter started well by knocking down a three that cut the lead to just five. Kyla Sheedy-Goff (five rebounds) got a free throw to push the lead to six, but both teams went scoreless for several minutes until Trinh turned the game on its head.

Stoughton (9-11) finished the season one win shy of a playoff berth, which includes a loss to Sharon in the first meeting. “You always want to finish the season on a win,” said Steele Jordan. “There are games that I can point to, there are a lot of games you look back on think, dang we were right there.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Sharon’s Roelke Walks On to Play DI Hoops at Lehigh

David Roelke
Sharon grad David Roelke walked on at Lehigh University and is looking forward to a strong finish to his senior season. (Hannahally Photography/Lehigh Athletics)

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There is a scene in the movie Rudy where Sean Astin’s title character is trying out for a walk-on spot on the Notre Dame football team. There are maybe two dozen players trying to fill just a couple of spots and they are being bruised, battered, and bloodied to get a chance to be on the practice squad. Luckily for Sharon grad David Roelke, it wasn’t quite the same experience for him to join the Lehigh University team and play Div. I college basketball.

“It wasn’t anything too crazy,” he explained, laughing when the scene from Rudy is referenced. “We just kind of had a little workout together and then I kind of got thrown right into the team to be honest. It wasn’t too bad.”

Roelke had continued to play basketball and work out when he got to Lehigh, playing in rec leagues and getting to know some of the players from his time in the gym. During one of his workouts at the end of his freshman year, one of the coaches from the women’s basketball team asked him to help out with their practice team.

“Once that hit it off, I kind of realized I still wanted to be involved in basketball and I was confident enough that I knew I was good enough to do it,” Roelke said. “I got great feedback from the program and the guys on the team would always invite me to their pickup and just got it rolling.”

Lehigh was admittedly not Roelke’s first choice coming out of Sharon. He had some opportunities to play basketball with local Div. II and Div. III programs, but he wasn’t sure if the schools were the right fit. He was accepted to Lehigh off the waitlist around the time of graduation. He had been planning on attending Fordham but took a visit to the Bethlehem, Pa. campus and decided to go to Lehigh a semester into his freshman year.

It didn’t take long for Roelke to realize that, as much as he like the school and college life, something was missing.

“I just missed basketball,” he said. “It’s like having a family and I missed that a lot over the first three semesters of college that I wasn’t playing.”

Roelke added, “I’ve always been part of a team, whether it’s AAU or Sharon or whatever, so it was kind of jarring to go to college and not have that in any capacity. Freshman year I’d go to a game and think, wow this is my school’s team and I’m not on it, which was really weird for me because I’ve done it my whole life.”

He said that he was instantly embraced as a member of the team, scholarship or no, and he has embraced living the DI athlete lifestyle, especially the structure that it gives to his day. As an example, Roelke recited his schedule for the following day, which included class, then treatment from the training staff, then a few hours of practice, then an hour of lifting, then 30 minutes of film.
“I think one of the big adjustments for kids when they get to college is the amount of free time that you have and that’s just gone,” he explained. “Learning to manage that has taught me a lot about commitment, priorities, and what I need to get done when.”

Obviously it is easier to commit to the level of work, time, travel, and structure of being an athlete when you are also getting frequent playing time. It is a different experience as a walk-on who only gets on the court every once in a while.

“I’m getting full reps in practice and everything, and I’ll have a week in practice where I feel like I’m one of the best players on the court, I’m killing it, and that doesn’t translate to playing time, which can be frustrating,” Roelke admitted.

He continued, “As long as I’m doing my job then it’s going to translate into the team doing better and, at the end of the day, I want a ring and I want to go to the NCAA Tournament. Whether that means playing in a game or not playing, at the end of the day I want a ring so whatever works for that.”

It didn’t take Roelke long to get his chance to experience DI basketball, as he played in the season opener against Monmouth and scored in his first appearance, prompting a flood of text messages from friends and family marveling at how he was playing at the top level. This season, the Mountain Hawks have made trips to the likes of nationally-ranked Auburn and to St. Mary’s. In the end, Roelke said, “It’s nothing too crazy, it’s just basketball.”

He added, “I came back to all these texts from people, ‘Hey, you scored in a DI basketball game, that’s crazy,’ and on the bus I was like, I guess. I was on the bus and just thinking, I’ve got practice in the morning…It was just basketball. Once you get on the court, it’s not all that different from a Sharon/Foxboro game.”

Over the summer, Roelke started working for a sports recruiting service and he has shared his unique perspective with families looking to find the right fit for their student-athletes. He knows that walking on isn’t always the right fit, as it has been for him at Lehigh, but he emphasizes that the right college experience, whether it is at the DI, DII, or DIII level, is different for everyone.

“I think that there’s kids out there who are thinking, okay I don’t have a scholarship opportunity right now and are thinking about what kind of college experience they want,” he said. “If you don’t want to spend that much time doing it and it’s not something that you love, then go do something else, but if it’s something that you’re going to think I wish I was playing basketball five hours a day then go do it. It’s definitely worth it.”

Lehigh is currently 6-18 on the season, following a win over Lafayette on Saturday, and 3-9 in the conference. While it hasn’t been the best of winters to this point, the Mountain Hawks still have the chance of making a Cinderella run to the tournament and Roelke is hoping to cap his senior season with a chance to play on the biggest stage.

“That’s the best thing about college basketball,” he said. “We have the talent to do it. It’s just a matter of getting hot at the right time. If anyone’s going to make a run, it’s going to be us. We’ve got the pieces to do it, it’s just a matter of putting it together at the right time.”

Canton Survives Second Half Surge From Sharon

Canton boys basketball Nick Cushman
Canton senior Nick Cushman goes up for a layup in the first half against Sharon. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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SHARON, Mass. – To foul or not to foul?

Holding a three-point lead late in the game, it’s a question that has divided basketball coaches for years.

But there’s no doubt which side of the argument Canton head coach Ryan Gordy belongs too.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

With a 58-55 advantage with 9.7 seconds to go, the Bulldogs fouled as Sharon crossed half court, “well before the Eagles had a chance to think about launching a tying three-pointer.

It worked as the Eagles came up empty on the first shot and had a violation on the second. Canton couldn’t quite put the game away, missing their chances at the free throw line but immediately fouled on the defensive rebound.

Again, the Eagles came up empty from the line and a defensive rebound and free throw from Dillon Nguyen pushed Canton’s lead to 59-55 with 2.1 seconds left, a scoreline that held through the final buzzer.

“We have rules about when to follow under a certain amount of seconds,” Gordy said. “We were up three and we figured if we fouled, they can’t make a three and they can’t tie the game. As long as we know to get the foul at the right time, then fundamental box outs on the free throws, I feel like it’s the right decision every time.

“We had to do it twice because we didn’t get our free throws but finally on the third time, we got it to four and then we don’t foul.”

The Bulldogs had to hold on at the end because of a second half comeback from the hosts. Canton pushed its lead to 14 early in the second half but the Eagles got a boost from an unexpected source.

After Sharon managed just one free throw total in the second quarter, the Bulldogs outscoring the hosts 10-1, head coach Andrew Ferguson went deep into his bench, putting junior Owen Conway and sophomores Ryan Zunenshine and Sam Cohen — who had each played three quarters of the JV came — into the lineup to start the second half.

On Sharon’s very first offensive possession of the second, Cohen splashed an open three and on the next trip down, drained a contested look from downtown, as the Eagle faithful exploded in the stands, an atmosphere usually reserved for the postseason.

Conway took a feed from sophomore John Baez (five points, six rebounds) and converted through the foul. Despite missing the free throw, Zunenshine battled for the offensive board and putback, swinging momentum in favor of the hosts.

Cohen sank another triple and Baez sliced through the Canton zone for two, getting the Eagles within five at 39-34.

“Execution aside, our effort wasn’t good [in the second quarter],” Ferguson said. “I thought waking up the rest of the roster by playing the swing guys there in the third. Sam Cohen did what he’s been doing at the JV level, what he did the year before at the freshman level…he can shoot the basketball. It was good to see that and it woke the rest of the guys up.

“It woke them up and the first unit played their butts off. I told them if they played with that kind of effort in the first and second quarter, we win that game.”

Canton senior Robbie Gallery (16 points, eight rebounds) used a nice move in the post to convert at the time and then found junior Matt Giglio (nine points, seven rebounds) in the same spot for another two in the final moments of the third quarter to stem the momentum some, giving the Bulldogs a 43-34 lead heading into the fourth.

Sharon’s first unit responded to the wake-up call as Matt Baskin (10 points) hit an early three and Baez added one of his own to get the Eagles within one possession.

Gallery came up with a clutch offensive rebound and putback for a traditional three-point play only for Baskin to answer with a similar play. Kiran Chandrasekaran tied the game with a pair of free throws with 3:41 to play but Giglio knocked down a three on the other end to keep Canton ahead, 51-48, with 3:17 to play.

“Hats off to Sharon on senior night, that crowd brought it tonight,” Gordy said. “I think the most impressive part was [Eric] Mischler’s foul trouble and being able to play that game without our best player. He’s been our best player all year, he’s in the top 15 in scoring [in the Hockomock], and I think he played a total of six minutes, if he played that much. To be able to get a win without him was an awesome experience for our guys, guys that have been practicing and working really hard and tonight they got opportunities, and a lot of guys capitalized.”

Mischler, who averaged a team-high 13.8 points per game entering the game and had a career-high 36 point performance three games prior, finished with three points in those limited minutes.










Gallery again scored for Canton and sophomore Lanse Dorcelus (nine points, three rebounds) sank a free throw for a 54-50 lead but Caleb Gayle hit his second straight shot to halve the deficit and Baskin came up with a strong take for a three-point play and a 55-54 lead with 40.1 to go.

On Canton’s next possession, it appeared Andrew Burton (19 points, 10 rebounds) read a handoff but was called for a foul instead of a jump ball. Gallery hit both for a 56-55 lead and the Eagles lost the handle on the other end, leading to two free throws from Dorcelus to push the lead to 58-55, setting up the fouls at the end.

“We didn’t show up for the first half,” Ferguson said. “Mentally and physically, we just didn’t play well. We didn’t share the basketball, we didn’t set screens and that bled into our defense and we started losing guys, stopped communicating like we had talked about. I was glad to see the sophomores get a run there in the third quarter and kind of wake up that first group that needed it.

“In this league, you can’t play for 16 minutes, you have to play for 32 minutes. Against any team in this league, doesn’t matter what their record is, if you don’t play for 32 minutes, you’re going to get beat and that’s what happened to us.”

The Bulldogs had a strong start to the game, shooting 9-for-13 over the first eight minutes of the game. While Mischler and Gallery dealt with early foul trouble, senior Nick Cushman (14 points, six rebounds) gave the Bulldogs a boost with six points in the opening quarter. Six players scored in the first for Canton.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

”Cushman has been our unsung hero this year,” Gordy said. “He was slated behind Kyle Fitzgerald and when Kyle got hurt, he went into a starting role and he ran with it. He’s been one of our top guys this year, and he did some good things tonight before he fouled out. Robbie did some good things for us too, he did what a senior captain should do.”

Canton put up 23 points in the first quarter and would have had a big lead if not for a brilliant start for Burton. He scored 15 of Sharon’s 17 points in the opening quarter to keep the Eagles close before Sharon went cold in the second.

Canton boys basketball (2-12 Hockomock, 5-14 overall) is back home on Tuesday against North Attleboro. Sharon (1-13, 1-15) travels to Foxboro on the same day.