Pats use strong second half to trounce Titans

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Toll Gate head coach Tom Rayko said his team felt some fatigue during the second half on Tuesday, but there was no evidence of that on the other bench.

Pilgrim battled its crosstown rival throughout the first half, taking only an 8-point lead into the break. After the intermission, the Pats came out just as productive while the Titans struggled to keep up.

“We’re not super deep,” Rayko said. “I thought we played a great first half. I thought we were pretty tired in the second half. That led to a lot of turnovers and a lot of dribbling, and our shot selection was not the greatest. Bad shots are basically turnovers in my opinion.”

The home side outscored Toll Gate 29-14 in the last 16 minutes to cruise to a 63-40 victory. Senior transfers Jake Gonsalves and David Cabeceiras both recorded 18 points for Pilgrim.

Both squads had their weaknesses during the opening half. Toll Gate could not defend the arc, allowing Cabeceiras and Gonsalves to drill their first combined six 3-pointers.

“I have a lot of guys who can shoot the 3,” Pilgrim head coach Chris LeBlanc said. “Dave Cabeceiras is one of those guys who can light it up, and in practice he hits those fallaways, just-joking-around 3’s, turn-around 3’s, and he's got quite the shooting stroke. He’s a really good player.”

Pilgrim, on the other hand, had difficulty containing Brandon Scott. Scott paced the Titans’ attack with 12 first-half points, with his last bucket giving Toll Gate a 23-21 advantage.

Forward Umair Ayaz drilled a corner 3-pointer to put the Titans ahead once more, 26-25, but that was the last lead they would hold. Toll Gate showed some early evidence of that second-half fatigue as Pilgrim went into the locker room on a 9-0 run.

Cabeceiras started it with a layup on the fast break, assisted by Gonsalves. Zach Johnson, Pilgrim’s 6-foot-5 center, came off the bench with 6:45 to go in the first half and made a sudden impact on the boards. He would clean up most of Toll Gate’s missed shots and convert them into scoring opportunities at the other end.

Matt Woods and Gonsalves would each notch field goals before the buzzer to give Pilgrim a 34-26 advantage at the half.

Scott would continue to fill in the stat sheet during the second half, but the rest of the Titans’ starters managed just one field goal. Scott would end the night as the leading scorer with 20 points, but no other Titan had more than five.

“Brandon’s been a scorer for us all season long,” Rayko said. “It gets a little tougher in D-II because everyone scouts you, has a little more stuff. We’ll keep working.”

Pilgrim, which sports a deeper bench, received contributions from all around to put the game out of reach.

Scott would pull the Titans within eight, 36-28, early in the action, but Pilgrim hit a groove. The Pats ripped off a 15-4 run that would effectively seal their win, spurred by a dominant inside presence and second-chance opportunities.

Woods hit a pair of free throws and Gonsalves earned an easy putback to extend the lead to 40-28. Pilgrim, unencumbered by foul trouble, maintained its aggressive man defense at the other end. Most of Toll Gate’s chances were disrupted and Pilgrim steadily cushioned its margin.

“I think it’s a testament to our guys that we can play man, that we’re athletic enough to play man against anybody,” LeBlanc said. “That’s a good squad.”

Gonsalves snuck inside for a layup to make it a 14-point difference, before Jarod Sickenger’s old-fashioned 3-point play had the Pats ahead 49-32.

Gonsalves capped the burst with a pair of free throws. He only recently returned from a knee injury, but LeBlanc said his confidence to drive to the hoop is building. Gonsalves was 4-of-8 from the charity stripe on Tuesday.

“He’s not ready to take it to the hole,” LeBlanc said. “We worked this weekend on taking it the hole, getting back to that Jake who shot 147 free throws last year.”

Pilgrim would keep Toll Gate at bay from there, dropping the Titans to 1-3 in Division II play. The Pats (3-1) are one of the hottest squads in D-II, having won six in a row dating back to a 76-66 triumph over East Greenwich on Dec. 20.

The Pats have a chance to keep that winning streak alive over the course of their next three games. Pilgrim’s opponents have a combined record of 2-8, starting with a road contest tomorrow at Juanita Sanchez (0-3) at 7 p.m.

Toll Gate will aim to get back on track against undefeated Chariho (1-0, 5-0 overall) tomorrow at 7 p.m. The Titans take to the road again on Monday night to duel with Cumberland (1-2).

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