The Toll Gate boys’ basketball team defeated Warwick Vets by 22 points back on Dec. 11, and playing in the third-place game of the Warwick Beacon Holiday Classic against the ’Canes this past Thursday, the Titans picked up right where they left off.
Toll Gate ran out to a 21-point lead at the half, and though Vets slashed the lead all the way down to 10 three times in the second half, Toll Gate held strong and went into the New Year with a 67-47 victory.
The game didn’t count toward league records, as the Titans remained at 3-1 in Division III-Central while Vets stayed at 1-3. But after a lackluster performance the day before in which Toll Gate lost 60-48 to eventual tournament champion Providence Country Day, getting one win was at least a little consolation. On the offensive end, Toll Gate got the job done with a balanced offensive attack. The Titans had five different players in double figures, with Tyler Inkley leading the way with 14 points.
“The starting five has pretty good balance between big men and shooting and a little bit of speed,” Toll Gate head coach Tom Rayko said. “Overall, that’s not bad.”
Vets, which lost to 66-37 to Pilgrim in the first round of the tournament, couldn’t overcome a poor first half in which it scored only 16 points and made just one three-pointer.
“It’s a little difficult to get overly fired up for playing the same teams over and over and over,” Vets head coach Chris LeBlanc said. “Now, we see each other so much. We play in the summer time, we play in the fall.”
On the other hand, the ’Canes out-scored Toll Gate 31-30 in the second half, finishing their tournament with some positives to build on as well.
“As I said at the end of the game, that half was 31-30,” LeBlanc said. “I was happy that we finally came around.”
Inkley led Toll Gate with 12 first half points, while Ben Mann scored eight. The Titans took a 37-16 lead into the half.
Early in the second, Vets started to surge. It scored nine of the first 13 points of the half, capped by a Will Remak three-pointer with 11:25 remaining, making the score 41-25. Kyle Toolin was a bright spot for Toll Gate, scoring his team’s first nine points of the half.
Four minutes later, the ’Canes got within 10 – 47-37 – for the first time on a Remak driving layup.
Remak was key during Vets’ second half performance, as he poured in 16 of his game-high 18 points during the final 16 minutes, including four three-pointers.
“I think he’s got a little self confidence issue sometimes if he’s not flowing right away,” LeBlanc said of Remak. “He watches enough basketball, and I tell him, ‘Take it to the hole a couple times and let the game come to you.’ Today I think he let the game come to him.”
Yet, despite the momentum shifting, Toll Gate wouldn’t give in. Ahead 51-41, Toolin made two free throws, and John Murphy scored inside. Toolin then hit another foul shot and Mann hit two free throws as well.
That added up to a quick 7-0 run, putting the Titans in front 58-41 with just 2:58 left. They coasted from there.
“We’re a fundamental basketball team,” Rayko said. “That’s the way we’ve got to play.”
To go with Inkley’s 14 points, Toolin added 13, Murphy and Coleman had 12 and Mann had 10.
For Vets, Remak had 18 while Carter Thomas added nine. Scott Camara scored six points.
Remak and Murphy were both named to the all-tournament team.
Now, both teams will look ahead to league games as they gear up for the meat of the regular season. Toll Gate was scheduled to take on winless St. Patrick Academy on Wednesday, with the results unavailable at press time.
After that, the Titans will play at 3-1 Moses Brown on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Vets is back in action on Friday, when it will host unbeaten Middletown at 7 p.m.