Following only its second league loss of the season on Monday, the Toll Gate boys’ basketball team got the perfect pick-me-up the next day.
The Titans hosted winless Our Lady of Fatima on Tuesday, and barely had to break a sweat en route to a 68-36 victory. Toll Gate was playing without two regular starters, and it held out its Tuesday starters for the entire second half.
Getting back on track with an easy victory was a nice contrast to Monday’s 66-50 loss to third-place Juanita Sanchez.
Toll Gate now has the second-best mark in Division III with a 12-2 record, while Juanita is 11-3. Fatima is 0-15.
“It was a good break, but at the same time it’s tough to work on stuff too,” Toll Gate head coach Tom Rayko said. “So, you mix and match. It was nice because it was a back-to-back game, so coming off that (Juanita Sanchez) game it was a nice break.”
The Titans were playing without Ethan Dujon and Jevonta Gonsalves, but Mike Reyes and John Coleman picked up the slack and led Toll Gate with 12 points apiece, while Nick Carr and Ben Mann each scored 10. Kyle Toolin and George Greenhalgh both scored seven.
In all, Rayko was able to get 12 different players into the game.
“It’s good, but it is tough too,” Rayko said. “Those kids are eager to play, and they all want to play, too.”
The Titans weren’t at their best in the early going, as they were tied with the Tigers as late as 16-16.
“The straight varsity guys, it was tough,” Rayko said. “Motivation is not quite as high. They want those competitive games, whether we come up short or not. Everyone wants to play a competitive game.”
But it didn’t take long for them to turn it on.
Evan Stamps buried a three, and Toolin did the same on Toll Gate’s next possession. After a Fatima miss, Toolin scored again, and Ben Mann scored off a Fatima turnover to put Toll Gate on top 26-16 in the blink of an eye.
Brian McParlin temporarily got Fatima back on track with one free throw, but Reyes scored four straight points and Nick Carr added a putback for a 32-17 lead.
Dillon Renzi made a long three for the Tigers to get them back within 12, but six straight points for Toll Gate – four from Austin Abramson and two from Carr – put the Titans on top 38-20 at the half.
“Once they get into the flow, they’re fine, but it is a little tough to get them going,” Rayko said.
When the second half began, Rayko elected to keep his starting five on the bench, and the outcome was never in doubt.
Mann got the second-half started with a fast-break layup, and Coleman hit a short jumper to put Toll Gate up by 22.
From there, the production was steady, as the Titans forced 21 Fatima turnovers and continued to extend their lead. The final 32-point margin was the largest lead of the night.
McParlin led Fatima with 23 points, while Renzi added 11. Those two combined for six three-pointers, as well.
The level of play for Toll Gate was a sharp contrast to the way the Titans played against Juanita, in which they just couldn’t get going.
In that game, Toll Gate also played without Dujon, the team’s leading scorer.
“First half was good,” Rayko said. “We were right there with them, back and forth, down three. Then in the second half they broke it out to eight, then like 12, and then we fell right into their transition game. That’s not our game. We weren’t controlling the transition like we normally do on our breaks.”
Toll Gate now has four games remaining in the regular season as it tries to get itself a better seed for the state tournament that will begin soon afterwards.
The Titans are currently in 12th place overall in the state, with 7.2 power points.
And the games they have remaining are all winnable.
Toll Gate will take on 7-7 Moses Brown this Friday at 7 p.m. before hosting 4-10 Warwick Vets next Tuesday.
After that, the Titans will host 8-5 North Smithfield next Thursday and then finish out the regular season with a re-match at Juanita Sanchez on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
“That was a monstrous game,” Rayko said of the game with Juanita. “We’re still in second-place overall, but they are right behind us. We could have put a little more distance. Now it’s just one game, plus we see them one more time.”