PAWTUCKET – There are going to be nights when the team’s leading scorer struggles. How does the rest of the team react when something like this happens? Are they going to be able to pick up the slack?
Tolman head coach Mike Kayata got all the answers he would need on Thursday night. With top dog Juan Velez mired in a dreadful funk and showing no sign of clearing the fog, Kayata opted to sit the junior down and place the outcome of this crucial contest against Barrington into the hands of the likes of Samb brothers, Seny and Mamour, along with senior Justin Zetina.
With Velez watching from the bench, the Tigers fought back from a seven-point deficit to top the visiting Eagles, 47-43. Seny Samb’s rebound and putback of a Jalen Dupre missed layup proved to be the deciding basket, snapping a 43-43 game with less than a minute remaining.
Zetina led the way for Tolman, coming up with big buckets in the closing stages to propel Kayata’s bunch on his way to finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds The senior delivered back-to-back baskets at a point of the game when Barrington was on the verge of taking control. He scored inside and followed up with a baseline jumper after Mamour Samb stole the ball, the sequence bringing the home team to within 43-40 with three minutes remaining.
“I’ve been pushing Justin hard to be able to dominate in the post,” said a clearly exacerbated Kayata, his Tigers now 4-3 in Division II-Central. “He had double digit (points) tonight and that was what we were aiming at.”
Zetina did his part. Now the onus was on someone else to deliver for Tolman. Jonathan Percy answered the call, the long-limbed junior calmly swishing a three to even the contest at 40-all with exactly two minutes left. It was a shot reminiscent to the one Percy drained a few weeks back in the championship game of the Cumberland-Lincoln Boys & Girls Tournament against Cumberland, one that came with the game’s outcome still very much up for grabs.
The two teams then traded empty possessions before the Tigers went ahead for good. Turning the ball over for the third consecutive time, the Eagles watched as Seny Samb cleared out enough space underneath the hoop to go ahead and score to break the tie.
A miss by Ben Engvall, who would go on to lead the Eagles with 17 points, pushed the visitors further behind the 8-ball with 37 seconds left. Forced to foul, Barrington put Mamour Samb on the line with 28 seconds left. The junior calmly drained both to make it a two-possession game.
Another miss by Engvall put the Tigers in fine position in a game that Kayata dubbed as close to a must win as you’ll find in the second week of January. The fact it came with Velez contributing just two points and sitting a good chunk of crunch time drives home the point that the Tigers were more than up to the challenge of raising their individual games.
“Their secondary players, guys other than Velez, stepped up and hit big shots,” was the compliment paid by Barrington head coach Pat Sullivan, the onetime head baseball coach at Tolman.
Percy finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Corey Daugherty tried to single-handily win the game for the Eagles (4-3, Division II-East), hitting four 3-pointers in the second half on his way to finishing with 16 points.
The first half was one littered with offensive doldrums. Tolman opened the game hitting just two of its first 16 shots to fall behind 14-6. It soon became Barrington’s turn to go ice cold as the Eagles didn’t knock down a single field goal in the final seven minutes leading up to halftime.
Tolman’s offense started to show signs of life after Kayata hooked Velez with roughly five minutes left in the opening stanza. For the record it was not a punishment doled out by the head coach, just the realization that the Tigers needed something to get them on a roll. Two baskets by Brandon Gagne helped tie the game at 15-all before Perry drilled a foul line jumper to give the Tigers their first lead, 17-15.
Engvall ripped off eight straight points to begin the second half but Tolman managed to stay even with the score tied at 29-29 with 9:53 remaining. Consecutive triples off the finger tips of Daugherty helped key a 9-2 run for Barrington before Seny Samb answered with a make from downtown to make it a 40-36 game. Daugherty’s fourth trey pushed the Eagles’ lead to 43-36, but that’s when the likes of the Samb brothers, Percy and Zetina dropped the hammer, holding Barrington off the scoreboard over the final four minutes.
“We don’t possess great offensive players other than Velez, but when we execute the plays and run the offense, we get open looks,” Kayata said.
BARRINGTON (43): Corey Daugherty 6 0-0 16, Jared Silk 1 1-2 3, Connor Slye 0 0-0 0, Jack Wenzel 1 0-0 2, Ben Engvall 7 3-6 17, Nicholas Raymond 2 1-2 5. Totals: 17 5-10 43.
TOLMAN (47): Juan Velez 1 0-1 2, Justin Zetina 5 1-3 11, Mamour Samb 3 2-2 8, Jalen Dupre 2 0-0 5, Brandon Gagne 2 0-0 4, Jonathan Percy 4 3-7 12, Seny Samb 2 0-0 5. Totals: 19 7-10 47.
Halftime: T 17-15.
Three-point field goals: B 4 (Corey Daugherty 4); T 3 (Jalen Dupre, Jonathan Percy, Seny Samb).