PAWTUCKET – Once Shea High got on a roll during the second half Friday night, there was very little anyone wearing a Tolman High uniform could do in corralling the Raiders.
Shea took full advantage of a 16-1 flurry – one that encompassed all of three minutes of clock – to roll to a wild, come-from-behind 65-55 win over its crosstown rivals at “The Cage.” The verdict helped secure Matt Pita’s first win as the Raiders’ coach and improve Shea’s record to 1-1 in Division II-Central. The loss drops the Tigers to 0-2 on the young season.
Things weren’t looking particularly good for Shea through the first 21 minutes. The Raiders trailed by a 44-37 count before Pita loosened the purse strings and unleashed a super-quick team, one that created easy offense off of Tolman turnovers. The result was a game-changing run that seemed to play right into Shea’s strengths while zapping Tolman of its remaining energy.
Every time the Tigers coughed up the ball, the Raiders were ready to make them pay. A steal at midcourt led to a thunderous one-handed slam by Joh’lon Hazard, a play that brought Shea to within 44-43 and the home crowd to its feat. Sophomore Eli Itkin then swished home a long jumper to give the Raiders their first lead since 5-2. The avalanche continued as more Tolman turnovers led to a hard drive by Malik Moody and back-to-back 3-pointers by Jordy Brito and Hazard, putting Shea up 53-44 at the eight-minute mark.
After watching the Raiders attempt to grind things out offensively in a half-court setting through the first 2 ½ games, Pita watched with glee as his team turned on the jets and practically chase Tolman back to Exchange Street. It was a certainly a far cry from Monday’s loss to Lincoln, which saw Shea manage just 10 field goals in a 15-point loss.
“We were fast, but we were also smart. The extra pass won us the game and we were very unselfish tonight,” said Pita. “We’ve played six or seven halves this season very slow, chucking three’s. We want to be true to our press, and tonight we capitalized on (Tolman’s) turnovers.”
The prime beneficiaries of Shea’s second-half turnaround were Hazard (game-best 22 points off the bench) and Austin Silva (19 points, 13 rebounds). Moody chipped in with 14 points and three 3-pointers while Zach DePina drew praise for taking three charges – two coming against Rodney Bustillo, Tolman’s talented point guard.
Tolman head coach Mike Kayata tried to curb Shea’s momentum by calling three timeouts, but nothing seemed to work. Bustillo scored 15 of his 21 points in the first half while Elijah Wiggins (14 points) and Nkosi Scott (13 points) managed to get into double figures.
Two stats that had Kayata peeved afterwards were the 27 turnovers the Tigers committed and the 18 offensive rebounds the Raiders snatched up.
“We lost control of the game,” stated Kayata matter-of-factly. “We needed to rebound, we didn’t do it. We needed to attack the rim, we didn’t do that. Once one of their guys hit a shot on the wing, we needed to play him and we didn’t.”
The Raiders left the door slightly ajar for the Tigers to make a run late, closing out the game with four turnovers after going up 59-53 with 3:20 remaining. Tolman responded by not recording a field goal in the final four minutes.
Both teams tried to speed up the game in the opening half, and the results were downright scary (28 combined turnovers). Still, thanks to the guiding hand of Bustillo, Tolman took a 28-23 lead into halftime.
“We did feel good at halftime,” said Kayata. “We thought we had control of the game.”
Shea tied the score at 35-35 early in the second half after a Moody three and a dunk by Silva that had the place buzzing. Tolman was able to weather that surge to go up six a short time later, but the Tigers were unable to withstand the Raiders’ decisive surge.
“That was a gut check for us,” said Pita after Tolman vaulted back in front.
TOLMAN (55): Troy Sawyer 0 0-0 0, Rodney Bustillo 7 0-0 21, Juniel Ortiz 0 0-0 0, Jeremy Graca 2 5-6 9, Justin Zetina 0 0-2 0, Nkosi Scott 5 0-0 13, Elijah Wiggins 6 2-3 14, Ja-Quan Seldon 1 0-2 2. Totals: 21 7-13 55.
SHEA (65): Austin Silva 8 3-8 19, Jordy Brito 1 2-2 5, Malik Moody 5 1-2 14, Eli Itkin 2 0-0 4, Zach DePina 0 1-2 1, Harel Montiero 0 0-0 0, Joh’lon Hazard 9 2-4 22. Totals: 25 9-18 65.
Halftime: T 28-23.
Three-point field goals: T 6 (Rodney Bustillo 3, Nkosi Scott 3); S 6 (Malik Moody 3, Joh’lon Hazard 2, Jordy Brito).
JV: S 50-42.