The Toll Gate boys basketball team cruised to an 68-41 win over visiting Johnston last night, extending its record to a perfect 7-0 this season.
The story of the night came early in the second half, when Toll Gate senior Brandon Scott sank a 3-pointer to surpass 1,000 points.
“It was a great feeling. We spent the last few minutes before trying to get it so once in went it, it felt good. It was nerve-wracking going into the game, knowing how many people were going to be there. My brother got it at Mt. Hope back in 2014 and it’s been a goal of mine ever since, looking up to him going through middle school and watching him play,” said Scott.
Scott needed 17 points to hit the milestone, and would do himself one better by finishing the night with a game-high 25 to comfortably clear the mark.
The Titans shot well out the gate and immediately jumped ahead in the first half, racking up a 35-18 lead by the break. Although the Panthers had a better second half, they were unable to overcome the early deficit and the Titans secured the win.
Toll Gate coach Tom Rayko was excited to see his senior standout reach his goal, and saw his potential early in his high school career.
“It’s fantastic. When he got within two, we forced about five straight plays to help him get it but when he finally got it off it was on just a routine play,” said Rayko. “He made an impact right away as a freshman on varsity. He was then a key guy from his sophomore year on. You knew that he had a chance to score 1,000 coming out of his sophomore year. He just kept growing as a player, got bigger and stronger and he’s now very mature as a senior. His basketball IQ is very high, he’s not afraid of the big lights, never was.”
Rayko also felt that home court advantage was key on Tuesday evening, especially considering the atmosphere surrounding Scott’s night.
“Everyone knew that Brandon was close to getting 1,000 so it was a factor … everyone was amped up hoping that he would get it. Another factor was that (Johnston) was 4-2, a little bit better competition so they really wanted to prove themselves and they just blew it away. We shot the ball really well,” said Rayko. “We’ve actually been dragging in the past few games. We had a three-game week last week and started out well against Central Falls, played North Smithfield (at home) on Wednesday and were a little sluggish, then we played Times2 Academy on Friday and were really sluggish there too. They were excited coming in, they really enjoy playing in front of their home crowd, home court advantage really helped out.”
Scott led Toll Gate with 25 points while Aiden Areson added 16 and Kavi Simpson nine. Tom Zednik led the Panthers with 12 points while Matt and Cam Sabitoni added six each.
It has been a historic start for the Titans this season, as Toll Gate hopes to reach the postseason for the first time in years.
“It’s great, the kids are pumped up and they’re excited. We haven’t been to the playoffs in a couple of years so they really want to make sure that they get there. They just keep working hard in practice. The play of Brandon Scott and Kavi Simpson really helps out, they’re the motors behind our offense and defense. Having two really strong players like that, everyone is watching and it is feeding into their will to win,” said Rayko.
“We didn’t do well the last few years but it feels great that my senior year is going so good,” added Scott. “We just need to keep working together, moving the ball and getting shots, we need our role players to play their roles and me, Kavi and Aiden need to continue to play well.”