Tigers let big lead evaporate
TORONTO — Games likes this keep coaches up all night.
In a game of two halves, a 28-point turnaround led to a thrilling victory and a painful defeat. The Toronto’ boys’ basketball team trailed by 22 with just second remaining in the first half against rival Wellsville, but the Red Knights stormed back and built a six-point advantage late in the game before holding on for an improbable 58-56 victory Tuesday night in overtime inside the George J. Kunzler Memorial Gymnasium.
Toronto scored 10 of the first 14 points of overtime to build a six-point advantage. The Tigers made two baskets in the final 4.3 seconds to account for the final score.
“We were not here in the first half,” Toronto (2-2) head coach Sean Tucker said. “At halftime, we made some really good adjustments. Those adjustments were really made by our two senior leaders, who provided great senior leadership. We got into it at halftime. We talked about what we needed to do and what we were not doing correctly in the first half.
“This game is going to give us confidence. We have a lot of young guys. We only have two players with varsity experience, and those two players are our two seniors. We have four guys who are beginning to mature. It takes time while we have two seniors on the floor. The seniors have embraced this. Their hearts are 100 percent pure. The younger guys followed their lead. We have two great senior leaders in Brendan (Matyas) and A.J. (Clegg).”
A 3-pointer late in the first half gave Wellsville a 37-15 lead, but a foul shot by Matyas completed the 28-point turnaround as it gave Toronto a 58-52 lead with 46.4 seconds remaining in overtime.
Luke Green had a monstrous first half for the Tigers as the junior scored 25 of his game-high 30 points, while hitting seven of his eight 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes. Green was held scoreless in the second half, but he did net five points in overtime.
“They played a box-and-1 on Green,” Wellsville (0-1) head coach Dave Thompson said about what changed for his team after it built its big lead in the first half. I am starting two freshmen. They made too many mistakes. They tried to do too many things on their own instead of what they were supposed to be doing in the second half. We had guys make mistakes. We will learn from this. Toronto’s kids play hard no matter what the score is. Toronto did a good job.”
Justin Wright tallied 13 points for the Tigers, including a highlight reel dunk off of a pass off of the backboard in the second half.
After trailing by 22, Toronto outscored Wellsville, 43-19, the remainder of the game.
“We were down 21 points to Malvern last year at home, and we came back to win that game in fantastic fashion,” Tucker said. “This one is a little different. Last year, the roster was different. Last year, we had seven players with varsity experience, while this year we only have two players with varsity experience. Our two seniors did a great job with their leadership.”
The Red Knights scored in double digits in both quarters in the second half as well as in overtime, while limiting the Tigers to single digits in both quarters and overtime.
“We wanted to force them to play fast,” Tucker said about his team’s defensive strategy in the second half. “We wanted to try and shut down Green. We wanted to make everybody else beat. We didn’t want to let him bet us. We learned that lesson the hard way against Monroe Central. We were not going to let that happen again.
“We wanted to come early with pressure. Our young kids did a great job. Our backcourt did a great job of running, jumping, putting pressure on them and getting into the passing lanes. We played smart. Our seniors did a great job.”
Three players produced double digits in the scoring column for the Red Knights. Individually, Clegg collected a team-high 17 points.
“It was an exciting game,” Clegg said. “We will learn from this. We have some young guys on the team, and you can see those young guys maturing. The first half and the second half was like night and day. Coach Tucker challenged us, and we responded.”
Also, Matyas tallied 11 points and Bryson Anderson netted 10 points.
“Games like this are always exciting,” Matyas said. “This is something we can build from. Games like this build character.
Wellsville led 13-9 at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers then erupted for 24 points in the second as the visitors outscored the hosts, 24-9, to take a 37-18 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We hit shots early,” Thompson said. “Green made seven 3’s in the first half. We could not get him any shots in the second half.”
Jay Hanlin’s second 3-pointer of the second quarter jump started the Red Knights’ comeback, and it pulled Toronto to within 19 at halftime.
The victors began chipping away at their deficit in the third quarter. Toronto outscored Wellsville, 14-6, in the quarter and closed to within 43-32 entering the fourth.
The Tigers want to get out and run, but they played at a slow pace in the second half.
“It was because of what they were doing,” Thompson said about his team slowing things down. “They made us play at that pace. They dictated the tempo of the game. Layups and free throws cost us along with turnovers.”
Toronto’s momentum continued to grow in the fourth quarter as Wellsville’s lead got smaller.
A basket by Clegg gave the Red Knights a 48-46 lead with 42 seconds remaining in regulation, but the Tigers’ Isiah Greathouse sank to free throws with 32.9 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock to tie the score at 48.
Both teams had chances to take the lead and win the game in regulation, however, neither team was able to score the rest of the way sending the game into overtime.
“Coach Tucker says leadership wins games,” Clegg said.
Matyas hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring in overtime giving Toronto a 51-48 lead, and a basket by Clegg pushed the lead to 53-48.
Green answered with a 3-pointer to pull Wellsville within two points, and Greathouse sank one of two free throws with 1:20 left to make it a one-point game.
Shane Keenan, who finished with eight points, made a layup to give Toronto a three-point advantage, and then Matyas made three foul shots to increase the Red Knights’ advantage to six points.
“At one point, A.J. brought us together into a huddle, and he told us we got this,” Matyas said. “He gave us the confidence to keep going. He pushed us to the victory.”
The Tigers cut into their deficit, but time ran out on them.
“We are going to be back in the gym tomorrow,” Thompson said. “We are going to get back to work. We are going to correct the mistakes we made tonight. We are going to work on our press break. That was the problem.”
Tucker and Thompson have a great deal of respect for one another and their respective programs.
“I talked to him after the game,” Tucker said. “He is a phenomenal coach. He is a hall of fame coach. Bug does a great job. He is a wonderful person. He is a great coach. You hate coaching against him. You know he is going to get the best out of his kids.”
Thompson coached against Tucker when he played at Indian Creek.
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Tucker,” Thomspon said. “Coach Tucker does a great job. I coached against him when he played at Indian Creek.
“This was our first game. I am starting two freshmen. It is tough when you play Toronto in your opener. Toronto is going to play aggressive and physical. They play the same way Sean is.”
Wellsville is scheduled to play Friday night at Columbiana, while Toronto is slated to play Martins Ferry Tuesday night at home.
The Tigers won the JV game, 11-8. The game was three quarters long. Two players scored three points for Toronto, while multiple players scored two points for Wellsville.
TORONTO: 9- 9-14-16-10–58
WELLSVILLE (0-1): Green 11 0-1 30; Brewer 2 0-2 4; I. Greathouse 2 3-4 7; Wright 6 1-2 13; Talbert 0 0-2 0; Carter 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 22 4-11 56.
TORONTO (2-2): Hanlin 2 0-0 6; 1 0-2 2; Matyas 3 3-6 11; Myslinsky 1 0-0 3; Clegg 7 3-8 17; Anderson 4 1-1 10; Ellis 0 1-2 1; Keenan 4 0-0 8. TOTALS: 22 8-19 58.
3-Pointers: Wellsville 8 (Green); Toronto 6 (Hanlin 2; Matyas 2; Myslinsky; Anderson)