The Titans squashed the Central Falls Warriors 58-39 on Friday night at Toll Gate High School during a Division III boys basketball battle.
Three Titans reached double digits in scoring with Francisco Lopez tallying 15, Liam Hart 13, both junior guards, and Kenneth Capellan, a senior guard, finishing with 11.
“Francisco, he’s one of my carry over guys from last year,” Toll Gate head coach Tom Rayko said. “He played heavy minutes. He’s a junior, he’s solid, and he’s our motor, honestly. He is a big spark for us. He always plays hard. There’s no question on that.”
“Liam is definitely a guy we’re looking to be able to shoot,” Rayko continued. “This was the first really big game. He’s had a couple threes in some other games, but he really kind of showed what he could do tonight, I thought from the outside.”
“Kenny is coming off a big night Wednesday against Ponaganset where he put up 17 points and he played very well again tonight,” Rayko added. “He’s slowly growing into a man.”
Rajuane Marmol, a sophomore guard, finished fourth in scoring with eight points.
“He’s new to our program this year, so he’s starting to grow as a player as well,” Rayko concluded.
The win improves the Titans to 3-1 in the league while Central Falls drops to 2-2.
“We’ve been playing well the past two games,” Rayko said. “Monday night, we lost to BVP (Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy) by three points. We definitely had a chance to beat them. We had a chance to tie, we had another shot to tie, so we kind of took that personally. We also played hard against Ponaganset on Wednesday night and continued that here. So, our press has been working well and the intensity on defense is awesome. And just simple ball movement because I never know who’s on.”
Next, the Titans will travel to North Smithfield on Tuesday to face off against the Northmen (0-4) at 7p.m.
Toll Gate came out on fire against Central Falls and put that game away early.
Hart recorded the first bucket of the game when he scored with a put back, and then Lopez scored two baskets, and Capellan capped it with a free throw that put Toll Gate on top 7-0.
Central Falls cut the deficit to 7-2 when Hector Osorio buried a hook shot following an inbound pass.
Soon after though, the Titans expanded their margin to 13-4 after Hart buried back-to-back 3-point shots.
Next, Toll Gate grew its buffer to 25-8 with five points from Lopez, a trey from Hart, two free throws from Austin Noon, and lastly, a spinning hook shot from Capellan.
Toll Gate headed into halftime holding on to a 29-13 cushion.
The Titans increased their advantage to 33-13 at the beginning of the second half after two straight buckets from Capellan.
Shortly after, Toll Gate got a layup from Lopez after an outlet pass from Noon, and that expanded the Titans margin to 40-17.
With 2:55 remaining in the contest, the Titans ballooned their lead to 58-28 when Marmol stole the ball and made a fast break layup.
Then, the Titans gave their bench players some minutes and Central Falls took advantage, ending the game with an 11-0 run, which pulled the Warriors within 58-39 with 40 seconds remaining.
The Toll Gate defense was stingy for the most part and protected their basket well.
“Absolutely,” Rayko said. “That’s what we’re preaching. Don’t give up an inch all game.”
The Titans went undefeated last season before falling in the DIII Championship game to Mt. Hope.
Toll Gate lost three key contributors from that team to graduation in Brandon Scott, Kavi Simpson and Aiden Areson.
“They were the big three seniors that we had,” Rayko said. “Logged major minutes. That was one of my concerns coming in, like ‘where are we going to get the scoring from and who’s going to be a leader?’ Scoring really hasn’t been an issue, our defense has kind of led most of our scoring, our pressure. Leadership, we’re still working on it. We got different guys every night kind of stepping up to be leaders. So, hopefully by the end of the season we figure out a couple guys who really can lead us into the playoffs.”
Nonetheless, the head coach certainly believes his team is in the running for another title showdown at the end of the season.
“We’re 3-1,” Rayko said. “And like I said we dropped a close one to BVP, whose one of the better teams. So, I’m not overly concerned or upset. I know Lincoln and Johnston are tough, a couple other teams are going to be tough too. But I think we’ll be in the mix. I think we’ll fight for another championship in Division III again, to be honest with you.”