CENTRAL FALLS – Call them the Iron Five. They are Tolman’s Justin Zetina, Napoleon Johnson, Mamour Samb, Jonathan Percy and Brandon Gagne, a group of Tigers who played every minute of Tuesday’s important Division II clash with Central Falls.
With suspensions forcing head coach Mike Kayata to shrink his playing rotation, the Tigers rode the same cast of the players from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Tolman gutted out a much-needed 65-53 win on C.F.’s home floor, one that signaled the end of a four-game losing streak for the Tigers.
Leading the way for the still-standing Tigers was Percy, who amassed 20 points and 20 points. The junior was also instrumental in shutting down Central Falls’ top low post scorer in Ryan Murray, who finished with eight points.
Samb matched Percy in the points department with 20 while Zetina added 14 points and six rebounds.
Rounding out Tolman’s pushed-to-the-limit unit was Gagne (eight defensive rebounds) and Johnson (seven points, seven assists).
“Five guys, 32 minutes. It was a total team effort,” said Kayata after Tolman improved to 5-7 in Division II-Central. “Before the game we talked about picking each other up in reference to the situation we were in, not having our two guys. We said, ‘What’s done is done and we need to move forward.’
“We all agreed that we would stay positive and remain focused and give our best effort to win this game,” Kayata added.
Clifton Johnson was the high man for C.F. with 25 points. Brandon Canuto (10 points) was the only other Warrior to pop for double figures on a night that saw the home team struggle to score with the game hanging in the balance. The 22 points the Warriors managed in the opening half were due in large part to Percy, who forced Central Falls (6-6, Division II-North) to become a jump-shooting team after the Tolman center starting the game with a couple of blocks.
“We stopped going to the basket,” noted Central Falls head coach Brian Crookes. “Yes, Murray has to get touches, but there’s got to be spacing for him in order to get those touches.”
Slowly but surely, Tolman was able to extend a 35-33 lead with 12:10 remaining. A couple of hoops by Zetina sparked an 11-2 surge that vaulted the visiting team to a 53-42 advantage with 3:30 left.
A tough hoop inside by Murray was followed by a Tolman turnover and a layup by Johnson, a sequence that cut C.F.’s deficit to six points. That’s as close the Warriors would get the rest of the way as the Tigers salted the game away behind 10 made free throws over the final 1:48.
Kayata noted that Tolman dug in defensively. “At the start of the second half we were in a zone. We switched out because they were getting a lot of open looks. They missed a lot shots that they regularly make but I think our defense might have had something to do with that. ”
The Tolman coach also noted that he expects to have a full compliment of players for Friday’s home game against Cumberland. That includes leading scorer Juan Velez and starting forward Seny Samb, two players who watched from bench Tuesday night.
“I think guys are past these situations. Mistakes and bad decisions were made, but we’ve handled matters and moved on,” Kayata said. “A win takes care of a lot of the problems that we’ve had.”
TOLMAN (65): Justin Zetina 4 4-9 14, Napoleon Johnson 2 3-6 7, Mamour Samb 6 6-10 20, Jonathan Percy 7 5-7 20, Brandon Gagne 1 1-4 3. Totals: 21 19-36 65.
CENTRAL FALLS (53): Clifton Johnson 10 2-2 25, Ryan Murray 3 2-2 8, Steven Vazquez 1 0-1 2, Julian Soares 1 0-0 3, Jose Toledo 1 0-0 3, Brandon Canuto 4 0-0 10, David DePina 1 0-1 2, Christian Brandon 0 0-0 0, Elsner Colindres 0 0-0 0, Elsner Colindres 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 4-7 53.
Halftime: T 31-22.
Three-point field goals; T 3 (Mamour Samb 2, Jonathan Percy); CF 7 (Clifton Johnson 3, Brandon Canuto 2, Julian Soares, Jose Toledo).