PAWTUCKET — Make no mistake: Tolman made Shea earn its 60-55 victory Tuesday night at the Donaldson Gymnasium.
The Raiders were the dominant club for much of the way, building a 32-23 lead at halftime before going ahead by 17 points with eight minutes remaining. That’s when Tolman head coach Mike Kayata decided to switch defenses from man-to-man to a matchup zone that allowed the home team to make a spirited charge.
Before Shea head coach Matt Pita knew it, Tolman trailed by only a single basket (57-55) after Mamour Samb swished home a jumper with 1:43 remaining. Shea was then called for traveling, but couldn’t capitalized as leading scorer Juan Velez front-rimmed a 3-point try.
Another Shea turnover gave Tolman another crack at tying the game with 56 ticks remaining. What ensued was the play of the game with Shea’s Tito DoCouto picked off a pass by Tolman’s Jonathan Percy. The Raiders capitalized on the turnover when Jordy Brito banked in a 3-point shot with 28 seconds left, a shot that allowed Shea to get out of dodge with its second league win in as many tries.
“We found a way to win,” said a clearly relieved Pita.
The loss sends the Tigers to 0-2 in Division II-Central, thus making Thursday’s game at home against Lincoln, another 0-2 squad, as close to a must-win as you’ll find with less than a week to go before Christmas.
“We’ve got to put it all together for 32 minutes,” Kayata lamented, harping upon a point as to why his team struggled in the early stages before making a serious run at the end.
Samb led all scorers with 21 points. The Tolman junior was forced to pick up the scoring slack with Velez enduring a rare off night. Velez finished with eight points on three field goals. Percy had 16 points and six rebounds for the Tigers, who defeated the Raiders earlier this month in the finals of the Donaldson Memorial Tournament.
Shea’s offensive output was defined by balance. Brito and DoCouto each swished home 12 points while Kenric Carter and Christian Malave each collected nine points.
“We do a good job sharing the ball,” noted Pita.
The way Shea attacked Tolman in the opening 24 minutes was based on a two-prong process. Offensively, the Raiders did a good job of luring the 6-foot-6 Percy out of the paint. By removing Tolman’s chief shot-blocking threat, Shea was able to penetrate and attack the rim for easy scores.
Defensively the Raiders asked Malcolm Rosa to check Velez with a teammate often close by just in case the Tolman junior got free.
“He’s our stopper. That’s his role,” Pita said about Rosa. The Raiders will look to improve to 3-0 Friday night against defending league champion North Providence at the Cougars’ barn.