The Toll Gate boys’ basketball team got its first taste of game action against the state’s best team on Friday, opposing two-time defending state champion Hendricken in an Injury Fund matchup. And, despite the fact that the Hawks ran away with the win with their speed and skill, Toll Gate showed some positive signs that should give it some confidence going into Division II play.
“I always do this in the first game so they have a chance to play a great opponent,” Toll Gate head coach Tom Rayko said of playing Hendricken. “We’re going to play a Division III team next, so we’ll balance that out and see where we are. Division II should be up and down. There are some strong teams, so I look at it as being in the middle of the pack in Division II.”
The Titans went just 3-15 in D-II last winter, but it looks as though they have a good mix of returners and newcomers for this campaign.
Toll Gate’s roster will be highlighted by junior shooting guard Brandon Scott, who was a Second Team All-Division player as a sophomore. He poured in a game-high 17 points against Hendricken, showing that he can knock down the deep ball while also driving to the hoop and getting to the line.
“He carried us a lot last year as a scoring option, and he’s going to do the same thing this year,” Rayko said of Scott. “We do have another player, Kavi Simpson, who is a counterpart of his and can score a lot of points too, which will open things up for Scott. Scott’s a great player as far as shooting the 3 and getting to the basket. I think he averaged around 15 points per game last season, and I’ll be looking for him to average around 20 this season.”
Senior Brandon Fogarty also had a strong game against Hendricken, chipping in with nine points while also hitting the glass for some key rebounds. He’ll be joined in the paint by juniors Aiden Areson and Jake Brodeur. Rayko will look to those three guys for rebounding and post scoring.
Rayko also has a couple of young guys that will see significant time, one being freshman Francisco Lopez, who added four points off the bench against Hendricken.
“He held his own in that game, against that opponent and that competition level,” Rayko said about Lopez. “I was pretty happy for him. He didn’t back down.”
Sophomore guard Austin Noon is another young player that Rayko will be expecting a lot from. Noon got the start and buried a 3 in the second half.
“That’s another young guy who held his own and held his ground in a game like that,” Rayko said of Noon.
Toll Gate should have enough talent to get in the win column more frequently this season in D-II. It will get its first test on Friday when it opens league play at Johnston, which lost nearly all of its scoring from a season ago. The matchup between the Titans and Panthers is set to tip at 7 p.m.
“I think we’ll just keep building as time goes on,” Rayko said. “The season starts on Friday against Johnston.”