PAWTUCKET â€” Tolman High head coach Mike Kayata is fully aware that in hoops parlance, Barrington is considered a matchup nightmare.
The Eagles might just be the most complete team in Division II, perhaps the entire state. Pat Sullivan, the former Tolman baseball mentor and current Barrington boysâ€™ basketball leader, has assembled a collection of talent that features plenty of knockdown shooters and enough size down low. Such strengths may keep coaches up a night, but Kayata is looking to simplify matters heading into the Tigersâ€™ Division II semifinal-round matchup against the high-powered Eagles on Friday night at Rhode Island Collegeâ€™s Murray Center.
â€śWe have to do the basic things like defend their shooters, which is going to be the No. 1 priority. Second, weâ€™re going to need five guys on the defensive glass,â€ť Kayata said Thursday prior to taking his squad over Jenks Middle School for a two-hour walkthrough practice. â€śThird, weâ€™re going to have to shoot better than we did the other night (against Exeter/West Greenwich in the Div. II quarters). The way we see it, weâ€™re going to need five or six guys to score in double figures.â€ť
Kayataâ€™s point is well taken. In Tolmanâ€™s 61-54 win over EWG, only one player eclipsed double figures. A repeat performance simply canâ€™t happen against a Barrington squad that chased Central Falls out of the gym en route to coasting a 75-30 victory. Three players for the Eagles finished with 10 or more points, and no, one of them wasnâ€™t the squadâ€™s best player in junior guard Corey Daugherty.
The Barrington-Tolman clash pits the No. 2 seed versus the third seed. The other semifinal involves top seed West Warwick against No. 4 North Providence. Fridayâ€™s winners will square off for the Division II title on Sunday afternoon at Providence Collegeâ€™s Alumni Hall.
Kayata asks what he remembers from Tolmanâ€™s Jan. 10 meeting with Barrington, one that took place at Donaldson Gymnasium. In that game, the Eagles scored the first 12 points of the second half en route to posting a 71-57 victory. Daugherty ended up scoring 29 points on 13 baskets.
â€śWe switched to man-to-man after halftime and that was our downfall,â€ť Kayata recalled. â€śThat (12-0) run to start the second half was the difference in the game. We played them pretty much even after that.â€ť
What also sticks out from that January encounter is the modest three points that Tolman senior big man Denzel DePina recorded. Thereâ€™s no doubt heâ€™s come a long way since then, witnessed by the 18-point, 14-rebound performance he compiled Wednesday against the Scarlet Knights.
DePina will once again have to be huge for Tolman as well as usual suspects Steven Otis and Jesse Fernandes. It wouldnâ€™t come as a surprise to see Otis shadow Daugherty come Friday night. A junior, Otis was one of the Tigersâ€™ unsung heroes from the EWG game after holding the Scarlet Knightsâ€™ leading scorer, Justin Kennedy, to five points below his season average.
â€śDaugherty can pick and chose his spots because heâ€™s going to have the ball,â€ť said Kayata. â€śA lot of Barringtonâ€™s offense goes inside to (Matt) DeWolf and back outside to the shooters. Weâ€™re going to have to be aware of that.â€ť
Regardless of Fridayâ€™s outcome, Tolman can take comfort in knowing that it has solidified a spot in the 16-team open state tournament that gets underway next week. Based on the most recent update to the Power Point standings, the Tigers are in the 11th spot, their 12 total points equaling what Central and East Greenwich have compiled to date. The Knights and Avengers are seeded ninth and 10th, respectively, and will both be in action Friday night.
The only school thatâ€™s currently below Tolman in the standings and has a chance to catch Kayata & Co. is North Providence. The Cougars have 11.2 points, the 12th most in the state.
Kayata and Tolman Athletic Director John Scanlon confirmed that a fan bus will be available to any student who wishes to attend Fridayâ€™s game. The concept was warmly received for the EWG game that took place at Coventry High. The bus is scheduled to depart at 4:30 p.m. and is free of charge. The only cost is the $5 game ticket fee.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03