PAWTUCKET — Tolman and Shea put on quite a show for the fans on Friday night during the championship game of the James W. Donaldson Memorial Tournament.
The Tigers and Raiders went toe-to-toe in the second half as Shea rallied to take a 44-43 lead with 1:42 left in the game. Tolman responded with a pair of steals that iced a 48-45 victory.
“We got a steal from Rodney Bustillo after Shea took the lead,” Tolman coach Mike Kayata said after the game. “Troy Sawyer put back in Rodney’s miss and then Jeremy Graca stole the in-bounds pass and made two big free throws. Our senior leaders really came through when it counted tonight.”
Shea, which trailed 23-16 at halftime, jumped on the back of senior co-captain Austin Silva, a 6-foot-2 forward who dominated down low in the second half en route to a 20-point, 10-rebound performance. It was Silva who gave Shea its only lead of the night when he put back a missed shot to put the Raiders in front with 1:42 remaining.
The Tigers failed to convert on their ensuing possession. Floor leader Bustillo then stole the ball away from Shea and went to the hoop, missing a layup. Sawyer, a senior co-captain, trailed the play and was in perfect position to rebound Bustillo’s miss and lay the ball in for the go-ahead basket.
It took only four seconds for Graca to swipe the in-bounds pass and get fouled. The senior co-captain calmly sank both free throws for a 47-44 lead with 1:06 left in the game.
Silva made one of two free throws with 44 seconds left and then Graca hit one of two with 21 seconds left, giving the Raiders one last try at tying the game. Silva’s three-point bid fell short as the final horn sounded, ending the contest.
“We played a lot of young guys tonight,” said Shea’s new head coach, Matt Pita. “We had a shot to win at the end. I was really proud of the way the kids came back. We finally went ahead and then we had a couple of lapses.”
Shea played without two starters – junior guards Malik Moody and Joh’lon Hazard.
Tolman got a big lift from Sawyer, a sixth man who scored eight crucial points for the Tigers.
“I’m the No. 4 guard and the sixth man,” Sawyer admitted. “The energy of the game just got me flowing. When Rodney made his steal, I was in a good spot to put the ball back in the basket.”
Kayata paid tribute to the hard-working senior.
“Troy is an A student and a great leader,” the coach admitted. “He is our sixth man but he is going to get a lot of playing time. Troy has turned himself in a good player through hard work.”
Graca played the best all-around game for Tolman, adding six rebounds and five steals to his 20 points. Senior center Elijah Wiggins collected eight rebounds while trying to keep Silva off the boards.
“Austin is a player who is very capable of taking his game to the next level,” Pita said, speaking of his athletic forward who started the second half comeback by taking a pass from guard Jordy Brito and converting a layup to bring Shea within five points at 23-18. Silva then would score the Raiders’ next four baskets. Harel Monteiro pulled Shea even at 33 and then would tie the game again at 38 after making one of two free throws.
Sawyer hit a three-pointer with three minutes left to put Tolman ahead 41-38 and then scored another basket at the 2:15 mark on a nice pass from Wiggins to make it 43-38.
The Raiders would show their mettle by scoring the next six points to go ahead 44-43 before Tolman made the plays it needed to make to win the game.
“After we fell behind, we showed a lot of guts,” Kayata admitted.
Both teams begin their Division II league seasons on Monday. Shea will visit Lincoln while Tolman hosts North Providence.
SHEA (45) – Austin Silva 7 6-12 20, Jordy Brito 2 0-0 4, Malcolm Rosa 1 0-0 2, Eli Itkin 2 1-2 5, Zach DePina 3 0-1 6, Harel Monteiro 3 1-4 8, Dominique Lima 0 0-0 0; totals 18 8-18 45.
TOLMAN (48) – Troy Sawyer 3 1-2 8, Rodney Bustillo 1 0-0 3, Kevin Coughlin 0 0-0 0, Juniel Ortiz 1 0-0 2, Jeremy Graca 5 8-10 20, Justin Zetina 3 0-0 6, Nkosi Scott 2 0-0 4, Elijah Wiggins 1 0-0 2, Ja-Quan Seldon 0 0-0 0; totals 17 10-14 48.
Halftime: Tolman, 23-16.
Three-point field goals: Shea (1) – Harel Monteiro. Tolman (4) – Troy Sawyer 1, Rodney Bustillo 1, Jeremy Graca 2.