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CUMBERLAND â€“ By Gary Reedyâ€™s estimation, eight years have elapsed since Cumberland High last captured the Cumberland-Lincoln Boys & Girls Holiday Tournament.
Needless to say, putting an end to such a drought would brighten the Clippersâ€™ spirits heading into the coming year. Cumberland earned the right to play in the championship game after disposing of Woonsocket, 71-63, Tuesday night in the Wellness Center. Junior Ben Bradley paced Cumberland with 19 points along with eight assists and five rebounds.
Tuesdayâ€™s other semifinal saw Tolman rally from a 29-12 halftime deficit to best Lincoln, 60-54. Juan Velez was the high man for the Tigers with 24 points with Jonathan Percy chipping in with 14 points. Jon McCourt led the way for the Lions with 17 points while Tyge Joyce pumped in 13 points.
The play of Bradley down the stretch was instrumental in the Clippers shaking free of the Villa Novans, who were buoyed by a 17-point performance by Cody Lâ€™Heureux and 16 points from Andreas Brackett. After missing a wild runner, Bradley came away with a steal underneath his own teamâ€™s basket.
Muscling the ball in, Bradley went to the free throw line where he finished off a 3-point play that put the Clippers up 64-55 with 3:01 remaining.
Bradley iced the game with 5-of-6 makes from the charity stripe in the gameâ€™s final minute.
â€śHe stretched the game out for us,â€ť said Reedy, the Cumberland head coach.
Reedy was just impressed with the play of his frontcourt against a taller Woonsocket unit. Three guys â€“ Tom Lazaras, Greg Joubert and Christian Spader â€“ ended up fouling out for Cumberland, but not before registering some sort of impact. Lazaras handed out six assists while Spader pulled down 13 rebounds.
â€śI thought the kids played really well,â€ť Reedy. â€śThat game could have gone the other way, but itâ€™s a nice win for this time of year.â€ť
Woonsocket was able to stay within striking distance thanks to attempting 33 total free throws, making 19. The play of Demetri Lewis was a pleasant surprise as the junior scored 14 points.
â€śIt was a situation where we dug ourselves a hole and had extra hard to get out of,â€ť said Woonsocket head coach Kyle Ivey-Jones, noting the 36-26 deficit his team faced at halftime.
Tolman head coach Mike Kayata understands that halftime is more than a chance for his players to recharge their batteries. Itâ€™s about processing what happened in the opening half and making the necessary adjustments. To that end, Kayataâ€™s message was straightforward â€“ get the ball inside.
With Percy and fellow frontcourt mate Justin Zetina dictating the flow, the Tigers went from a team that teetered on the edge of getting chased out of the gym to one that was in control. A 28-6 run to start the second half enabled Tolman to go up 40-35 as Zetina, who netted all nine of his points following intermission, and Percy took turns in pouring in points.
â€śWhen Percy brings it to another level, heâ€™s tough,â€ť said Kayata, who got a combined 15 rebounds from Percy and Zetina. â€śIt was our interior defense that really helped us.â€ť
Tolman tied the game at 35-all when Velez converted a rare four-point play, his 3-point make materializing as the junior was falling down in front of his teamâ€™s bench. Besides leading all scorers, Velez finished with six steals and one turnover, a stat that had Kayata beaming.
â€śI give Velez credit because instead of taking threes, he became more of a team player,â€ť was the compliment paid by Lincoln head coach Kent Crooks.
Besides having trouble checking Tolmanâ€™s big men, Lincoln struggled against the full-court trap Kayata unleashed at the onset of the second half. With Velez pressuring the ball handler and teammates Mamour Samb (seven points) and Jalen Dupre (five points) roaming near midcourt in the event of a deflection, the Lions had a hard time establishing their half-court offense. The end result was a 10-minute stretch that saw Crooksâ€™ crew manage just six points on their way to falling behind by double figures.
â€śIt just swirled out of control. Youâ€™ve got to beat that pressure in order to maintain the lead,â€ť Crooks said.
Lincoln moved to within 51-47 with 2:42 left and remained down by that same deficit, this time 54-51, with 1:27 to play. Two free throws by Dupre gave the Tigers some breathing room on a night that saw Kayataâ€™s crew overcome a terrible start to advance to tonightâ€™s championship round â€“ set for 7:45 â€“ against the Clippers.
For Lincoln and Woonsocket, the goal for the consolation game â€“ a 6 p.m. tap â€“ is to not walk out of the Wellness Center empty handed.
TOLMAN (60): Juan Velez 8 5-7 24, Justin Zetina 4 1-2 9, Mamour Samb 3 0-2 7, Rodney Jean-Pierre 0 0-0 0, Jalen Dupre 1 3-5 5, Abdul Meher 0 0-0 0, Jonathan Percy 5 4-6 14, Kenny Gagnon 0 1-2 1. Totals: 21 14-24 60
LINCOLN (54): Jon McCourt 6 3-5 17, Anthony Palombo 0 2-2 2, Alec Cronan 0 0-0 0, Tyge Joyce 4 2-3 13, Ryan Kelly 3 2-2 9, Andrew Juckett 1 2-2 4, Leke Akanji 0 0-0 0, Tony Ojih 3 3-6 9. Totals: 17 14-20 54.
Halftime: L 29-12.
Three-point field goals: T 3 (Juan Velez); L 6 (Tyge Joyce 3, Jon McCourt 2, Ryan Kelly).
WOONSOCKET (63): Juwan Simpson 0 0-0 0, Khalil Oliver 2 0-0 4, Cody Lâ€™Heureux 6 3-5 17, Demetri Lewis 5 3-5 14, Andreas Brackett 4 8-14 16, Brandon Rainville 2 2-4 8, Korey Lawrence 1 2-2 4, Kodie Spearman 1 0-2 2. Totals: 23 19-33 63.
CUMBERLAND (71): Ben Bradley 5 8-13 19, Josh Velazques 1 0-0 2, Chris Antunes 0 0-2 0, Tom Lazaras 5 4-5 16, Mitchell Baxter 3 0-0 6, Tyler Diedrech 0 2-2 2, Greg Joubert 5 1-4 11, Chris Spader 4 2-2 10, Rod Reedy 2 0-0 5. Totals: 25 17-26 71.
Halftime: C 36-26.
Three-point field goals: W 2 (Demetri Lewis, Cody Lâ€™Heureux); C 4 (Tom Lazaras 2, Ben Bradley, Rod Reedy).