CUMBERLAND – Tolman head coach Mike Kayata can live with Jonathan Percy firing away from the baseline. It’s a whole other matter when the 6-foot-7 junior tees up a shot from behind the 3-point stripe.
With his team engaged in a serious rock fight with Cumberland High in the championship game of the Cumberland-Lincoln Boys & Girls Holiday Tournament, Percy did the unthinkable. Standing in the corner by his lonesome, the long-limbed center let fly a bid that made Kayata’s blood boil. The 3-point try was Percy’s first of the season, but the end result was pure and on-target, a make that turned a two-point deficit into a 46-45 lead for Tolman with 1:27 play.
More frantic play would ensue in what ended up a 52-50 decision in favor of Tolman Wednesday night at the Wellness Center. The Clippers trailed 52-47 with 15 seconds remaining when Greg Joubert hit a layup and Ben Bradley rattled home a corner three of his own to bring the home team to within one.
Looking to get the ball inbounds to draw the foul, Tolman instead threw the ball away into the awaiting arms of Joubert, who caught the ball at half-court and in one fell swoop delivered a pass to Christian Spader. Standing 15 feet from the basket and with Percy covering him, Spader got off an offering that bounced off the glass as the final horn sounded.
Afterwards the talk was about Percy’s trey as part of a 13-point, nine-rebound, 13-block performance. That stat line earned him tournament MVP honors as Tolman captured the 39th annual holiday hoops festival for the third straight year.
“He hasn’t shot (from that spot on the floor) all year,” Kayata noted, “but he wanted to make that shot so he took it.”
Said Cumberland head coach Gary Reedy: “It was a beautiful shot. I told Spader, ‘I wouldn’t have gone out and played that either.’ The kid made it and he deserved it.”
Juan Velez also contributed to the cause on a night in which he struggled from the outside. The Tigers junior came up with two steals and two subsequent layups following Percy’s make to pad Tolman’s lead. Velez ended up with a game-high 19 points.
Cumberland owned the upper hand early, opening up an 18-6 lead with eight minutes gone by. Tolman regrouped to close to within 24-21 but Mitchell Baxter executed a catch-and-shoot play perfectly as the final horn sounded to give Cumberland a 28-21 lead at intermission.
The first 8:01 of the second half resembled a nightmare for the Clippers, who managed just one free throw during that stretch. By the time Spader (15 points) hit a layup with 6:59 flashing on the clock, Cumberland was down 33-31.
“Not only did you let them in the game, but you let the momentum go their way,” said Reedy about his team’s prolonged offensive drought.
A steal by Spader brought Cumberland to within 43-41 with three minutes to go. Another careless play on an inbounds play resulted in yet another Tolman turnover, which Cumberland turned into points when Tom Lazaras fed Joubert to tie game at 43-all.
Velez hit a free throw to put Tolman up one but Cumberland came back to take a 45-43 lead behind free throws by Spader and Rob Reedy with 1:37 remaining. The Clippers wound up missing 12-of-22 shots from the line.
In the consolation game, Lincoln hung on for a 59-56 win against Woonsocket. Up 51-40 in the second half, the Lions watched as the Villa Novans moved to within a single point (57-56) with 54.5 ticks to play. Jon McCourt and Ryan Kelly each hit 1-of-2 from the line to put Lincoln up three, setting up Woonsocket’s last chance inside 10 seconds remaining
Looking to get up a shot with 1.8 seconds remaining, Woonsocket’s Kory Lawrence (11 points) had saw his bid die out at half-court as 6-foot-6 Tony Ojih, who spent most of the game in foul trouble, came up with the game-saving block.
“He (Ojih) wasn’t supposed to jump, just make the shot more difficult,” Lincoln coach Kent Crooks said. “The fact that he jumped, it could have easily been a foul in the act of shooting. It wasn’t over until it was over.”
McCourt and Kelly finished with 21 points apiece to lead the Lions while Cody L’Heuruex finished with 17 points for Woonsocket.