PROVIDENCE — Tolman High head coach Mike Kayata strolled out of the visiting men's locker room in the basement of Rhode Island College's Murray Center on Wednesday night, shrugged his shoulders and tried to explain what had just transpired upstairs.
After sustaining a ridiculously-lopsided 70-48 loss to sixth-ranked Coventry in this, the preliminary round of the R.I. Open Division Tournament, he opened his comments with, “They're legit, there's no other way to say it. They had five guys who could take us off the dribble, then they'd drive and kick it out to the corner or the wing and hit a three. They just made shot after shot.
“I will say we've had a great season,” he added of his 11th-seeded squad's closing the campaign at 17-7 overall. “I'm really proud of the effort they gave all year. We just lost to a superior Division I team.”
The final statistics more than backed that up. The Knotty Oakers produced a whopping 10 treys, forced 23 turnovers and devoured the Tigers on both ends of the floor.
Consider this: Nine Coventry players notched four points or more, with 6-foot-6 senior center Sean Roles and junior guard Ethan Lesnett both collecting 12, while senior Connor Flynn chipped in 11 and seniors Tom Peters, Shawn Pacifico and Tom Campbell all recorded six.
As for those who canned three-point bombs, Flynn and Lesnett both dropped a trio, Pacifico a pair and junior Evan Finnegan (five points) and senior Oliver Devas one each.
On Tolman's side, junior swing Jesse Fernandes recorded a team-high 15 points, while junior tri-captain Steve Otis mustered 13 points, three steals and four assists and fellow captain Tyler Reece eight points and nine boards.
Junior guard Luis Pagan also managed eight points, with two of the visitors' five treys coming from beyond the arc.
Kayata's game plan entering the matchup was to defend Roles low, and also stop dribble penetration in the middle. According to the mentor, his Tigers did a fair job of the former, and terribly at the latter.
It was obvious from the outset that the Oakers (who earned a trip to the semifinals against either No. 3 Barrington or No. 14 Juanita Sanchez at Brown on Sunday) had a considerable size advantage, but that didn't hurt Tolman as much as its own turnovers.
It took head coach Tom Campbell's crew just 47 ticks after the opening tip to gain a 3-0 lead, courtesy of Lesnett's initial three-pointer, and – with only 2:13 elapsed – Coventry made it 10-0 after Roles netted a fast-break layup.
Otis' low feed to Fernandes 2:32 into the contest gave Tolman its first bucket, and a Pagan trey brought Tolman back to 17-5. In fact, when Pagan canned a coast-to-coast layup with 8:31 remaining, the Tigers had battled their way back to respectability at 17-10.
The Oakers regained a double-digit cushion with Pacifico's three-pointer, but Pagan answered that with a trey of his own 41 seconds later. When Otis converted two foul shots with 3:58 left, Kayata and Co. trailed only 30-21.
Over the remaining 3:10, though, Tom Campbell hit a stop-and-pop 14-footer, Bryce Suvajian a reverse lay-in and Pacifico a trey before Roles rebound/putback delivered the Oakers a 39-23 cushion.
All told, the higher-ranked team had manufactured a 9-2 flurry in that final 3:10, and that was just the beginning.
A mere 21 ticks into the final session, Flynn canned a three, and 18 seconds later, Lesnett netted a layup off a steal to make it 44-23. On the next Tolman possession, Otis had leaped to gather a pass near his offensive zone's baseline, but an Oaker had knocked it out of bounds.
Otis just grinned meekly as if to say, “Man, what's it going to take?”
Exactly three-quarters of a minute afterward, with 14:02 remaining in regulation, Peters hit another lay-in off a turnover, and Coventry led, 46-23.
Dating back to the 3:10 mark of the first half, the hosts had managed a 16-2 run in just 5:08; that flurry would continue.
Lesnett landed another trey at the 12:38 mark, Roles drilled home a slam and Flynn hit a three at 11:10 to make it 55-26. When Doras hit a baseline bomb from the right at 7:43, that sealed the verdict at 62-29.
In the previous 8:17, the Oakers had entertained themselves with a 23-6 run.
All that was left was “garbage time,” with plenty of fouls on both sides to go around. If there was any good news, the Tigers outscored their foes, 19-8, over the last 6:50.
“I didn't know much about them,” noted the elder Campbell. “I heard they were a good team and had a good year in Division II, (and that) they play hard. Other than that, I didn't know much about them.
As for moving from that nine-point lead at the break to 49-23 in the first 3:22 of the second, he added, “We just went out running. We subbed a lot and were fresh, plus we started hitting shots.”
Offered Kayata: “Early on, we tried to attack them by getting by the first and second defenders, but then we'd be met by the third guy posting down and didn't make a shot. They just made theirs on the other end.
“To be honest, they were more physical, more skilled and stronger,” he continued. “The refs called a very physical game. We just weren't ready to play at the Division I level … Like I said, we wanted to stop Roles, and we did a decent job of that in the first half. We also wanted to stop their penetration, and we did a terrible job at that. That's why they decided to drive and kick it out.
“When they started landed those threes, we couldn't recover. They got into their game and took ours away. We just weren't ready to take that step, and it's because Coventry is a really solid D-I team. I can see them going a long way; they might even make the Final Four.”