The Toll Gate boys’ basketball team had several opportunities to take control in the final minutes of Wednesday’s Warwick Beacon/Citizens Bank Holiday Classic championship game.
It didn’t happen, as Providence Country Day scored the final seven points of the game to win 46-41.
For Toll Gate, the late missed opportunities didn’t sting as much as the ones that came much earlier. The Titans made just four of 23 shots and committed 13 turnovers in the first half. They trailed 24-11 at the break, and though the second half was much stronger, the first-half struggles set the stage for a disappointing finish.
“We improved and came up short – that’s the bottom line,” said Toll Gate head coach Tom Rayko. “If we would have started out better in the first half, we definitely would have had a better chance to win that game.”
Instead, PCD ended up with the tournament championship for the second year in a row. Tom Horvat and Tyler Mosher had 14 points apiece to lead the Knights.
“This is a good victory,” said PCD head coach Tom Sienkiewicz. “When we held them under 10 almost into the half, I said ‘We’re in pretty good shape.’ But then they started making some shots. They’re tough, but we played well down at the end. It was fun.”
The Titans were coming off a 30-point victory over Pilgrim last Tuesday, but instead of staying hot, they cooled off in a big way early in Wednesday’s championship. The Titans missed their first eight shots, and it took them more than five minutes to score. They fell behind 7-0 and 11-2 in the meantime.
The rest of the first half didn’t get much better. Toll Gate made just four field goals and went to the break trailing by 13.
“We played so flat,” Rayko said. “It just seemed like people really weren’t stepping up to play. If you compare the first half to the second half, it was like night and day. It was a horrible shooting first half. I didn’t feel like we played as a team. I thought we took quick shots in the first half and there was too much individualized play.”
The second half was a different story. Toll Gate started with a 9-0 run to get right back in the game, as Jevonta Gonsalves hit a three, Nick Carr scored twice inside and Colin Stamps hit a leaner.
PCD went back up by nine midway through the half, but a three by Austin Abramson sparked an 11-2 run that tied the game. Gonsalves made two three-pointers to cap the burst, which tied the score at 36-36 with 3:59 left. The Titans then took their first lead of the night when Dujon scored on a driving layup.
PCD, which hadn’t hit a field goal in almost seven minutes, finally broke through on a three by Horvat with 2:14 left, but Toll Gate answered. Abramson hit another three to put the Titans up 41-39.
But for the Titans, that was the end of the line. Tyler Mosher made two free throws to tie the game, and after Abramson missed a driving layup, Horvat buried another three to put PCD in front.
Gonsalves then had a three go in-and-out, and Carr missed a putback. Horvat ended up with the rebound, got fouled and hit both free throws to put the Knights up five with just 18 seconds left. Toll Gate couldn’t get any closer.
Horvat was one of the heroes for the Knights, scoring eight of his 14 points in the final 2:14 after a cold shooting night to that point.
PCD also came through at the foul line, hitting 14 of 16 on the night.
“We work hard on foul shots,” Sienkiewicz said. “We never work hard enough to be as consistent as we need to be, but the kids made some good ones tonight.”
The Titans were led by Abramson and Gonsalves, who scored nine apiece. Carr and Dujon added eight each.
The game was the last one before the Titans head into the thick of their league schedule. Rayko was hoping they could learn from it, and their first game back was a good starting point. The Titans beat Mt. Hope 78-54 on Tuesday behind 27 points from Dujon.
“I hope we learned a lot in the two tournaments we played,” Rayko said. “Our big asset is our defense. We definitely play hard-nosed defense, whether we’re pressing or just playing our 2-3. We’re a good defensive team. Offense is going to be spotty at times. It’s definitely been better this year than it has in the past – we have guys who can play. The biggest thing is just what we did in the second half – moving the ball and getting everybody involved in the offense, not just one person.”