CUMBERLAND --– Players like Rodney Bustillo and Elijiah Wiggins don’t need an entire game to make a difference.
Just give them a little time to start heating up.
The Tolman High seniors got sizzling hot in the second half of Tuesday’s opener with Cumberland in the annual Cumberland/Lincoln Boys & Girls Club Holiday Tournament and turned a 38-all tie at the break into a runaway 80-61 rout at the Wellness Center.
Wiggins finished with a game-high 21 points and Bustillo chipped in 16. But it was their work in the second half - aided by some help from their teammates - that changed the complexion of the game and earned the Tigers their third straight victory.
Wiggins and Bustillo combined for 28 points in the latter half. Utilizing his 6-foot-4 frame, Wiggins scored most of his points inside with an occasional outside jumper. The 5-6 Bustillo dished out a number of assists to Wiggins and also was strong defensively and from the outside.
“Rodney’s speed on defense has been immense,” said Tolman coach Mike Kayata. “He is really digging in on the defensive side of the ball. Elijiah has become a force in the paint and he is starting to get a lot more confidence in his jumper. Once he’s facing up to the rim, he has a knock-down jumper from the high post and he’s got a baseline jumper and he’s also got post moves down low…He’s got all the moves it’s just a matter of time before he starts showing it.”
Cumberland coach Gary Reedy was well aware of the lethal combo before his team took to the floor. But he didn’t expect the Tigers accuracy from behind the arc.
“We tried to identify them straight up,” he said. “We actually came out with a triangle and two to play those two guys (Bustillo and Wiggins) and then all of a sudden their other guy (Juniel Ortiz, eight points) hits two threes, who I don’t think has taken two threes all year. That was pretty much the difference in the game.”
With the Clippers relying primarily on their inside game and the Tigers scoring a bulk of their points from the outside, the two Division II rivals played a back-and-forth first half. Tolman held the biggest lead in the half when it rattled off six unanswered points, capped by a 3-pointer from Bustillo, to take an 18-12 advantage with 8:31 remaining.
Trailing by a score of 20-16, Cumberland regained the lead with six straight points of its own that featured a layup from Ben Proctor (eight points), a 3-pointer by Andrew Baglini (10 points) and a running layup by Tom Lazaras (four points). Lazaras was the beneficiary of a Baglini steal and a perfect no-look pass underneath by the senior guard.
After the Tigers responded with six straight points, Cumberland came back with an 8-1 run, including a dunk from Mike Joubert (11 points), for a 31-28 advantage. The Tigers knotted the score at 33 on a 3-pointer from Ortiz and then at 36 with Coughlin hitting one from beyond the arc.
In all, the Tigers hit five 3-pointers in the initial half.
“I thought the first half we ran our sets very well,” Reedy said. “We turned the ball over a little bit here and there. But the first half I thought we played good, clean basketball. I really did. The first half they had (15) points on three-pointers. They were just hitting the threes today, and our hands weren’t up on defense. The hands have to be up. But they were on fire anyways.”
“We were unconscious shooting-wise (in the first half),” Kayata admitted. “I saw guys hit shots they never hit before. I mean, Kevin Coughlin hit a three from the baseline that I have never seen him get that shot. We got a good offensive team. If teams are going to leave us alone, we are going to put up some points.”
Bustillo, who had 11 of his points after the break, provided the spark at the start of the second half, scoring the first six in a 1:34 span, bookended by a 3-pointer. Those half-dozen points fueled a 15-4 run to start the second half.
“The key at halftime is we needed to play better defense and to run the plays on offense,” Kayata said. “That’s exactly what happened. We came out in the second half and executed on offense and we had more ball pressure on defense and Bustillo just kept coming. Rodney had a whale of a game. But I’m not going to single anyone out because everyone played well.”
Wiggins created one of several highlights for the Tigers in the second half with his first-ever dunk near the midway point to give his teammates a 59-45 lead.
With the win, Tolman will now face Lincoln in tonight’s championship game at 7:30. The Lions defeated Woonsocket, 68-52, in the first game of the night.
In a Div. II-Central matchup on Dec. 20, Tolman beat Lincoln, 48-37.
“We just got by Lincoln in a hard-fought game. It’s going to be tough,” Kayata said. “This is part of their tournament and they are going to come out like gang-busters tomorrow night trying to get back at us to avenge that other loss.
Cumberland, which was led by 18 points from Ben Bradley, faces Woonsocket in the consolation game at 6 p.m.
TOLMAN (80) –Juan Velez 5 2-5 12, Troy Sawyer 0 1-2 1, Rodney Bustillo 6 1-3 16, Kevin Coughlin 2 0-0 5, Juniel Ortiz3 0-0 8, Jeremy Garcia 2 2-2 7, Justin Zetina 0 0-0 0, Nkosi Scott 2 0-0 6, Elijiah Wiggins 10 1-2 21, Ja-Quan Seldon 1 0-0 2, Aloune Cissoko 1 0-0 2, Roberto Contreras 0 0-0 0. Totals – 32 7-14 80
CUMBERLAND (61) – Ben Bradley 6 5-8 18, Patrick Burns 1 0-1 2, Andrew Baglini 3 3-6 10, John Andrade 2 0-0 4, Matt Lazaras 0 0-0 0, Joseph Travers 0 0-1 0, Thomas Lazaras 2 0-0 4, Ben Proctor 3 2-9 8. Totals – 23 13-31 61
Halftime – 38-38. 3-point goals – T (9): Bustillo 3, Kevin Coughlin, Juniel Ortiz 2, Graca, Scott 2. C (2): Bradley, Baglini.