Tigers stay perfect in division after thriller

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By Nick Friend

TIVERTON — Led by 13 points from Tyler Murray and a stellar defensive performance, the Tiverton boys’ basketball team defeated Lincoln 45-43 in a thriller Tuesday night, Feb. 8, to stay undefeated in front of a large home crowd.

It took all 32 minutes for Tiverton to put away a feisty Lincoln team in their closest win of the season. For a team that had an average margin of victory of 22.7 points coming into the game, this was uncharted territory.

“I am really proud of them— it isn’t going to get any easier from here because teams get more seasoned at the end of the season,” said Tiverton Head Coach Dave Landoch. “I really thought they did a good job with the situation. We didn’t shoot the ball well and we have been scoring around 70 points per game.”

Missed opportunities on both ends of the court for the Tigers led to Lincoln taking a 26-25 lead into the half. To begin the second, Lincoln jumped out to a seven point lead before Tiverton slowly but surely chipped away at the deficit which led to Stephen Gacioch hitting what would be the game-winning shot with just over a minute left in the game.

“I thought we were shooting way too much from the perimeter for most of the game and then we finally were able to get inside and score,” Coach Landoch said. “Stephen had some big buckets at the end and so did Tyler. They (Lincoln) really battled and it was a well-fought game.”

Right from the tipoff, Coach Landoch could see that his players were not themselves as missed layups and turnovers led to the Lions jumping out to an 8-5 lead with six minutes off the clock.

“Usually we get up quick and are up like 10-0 or something,” Coach Landoch said. “All of our shots were good shots in the beginning, but we just missed them.”

After a timeout by Lincoln, the two teams traded back-to-back-to-back three-point shots with two of them coming from Tiverton’s Carson Hart and Murray which tied the game up at 15.

Lincoln continued to fight hard and earn good looks as five points in just a couple possessions down the floor for Michael Hrycin kept Tiverton in it and tied the score up at 21.

With about a minute until halftime, Tiverton found itself in a five point hole until Hart hit on a jumper followed by Kyle Soares earning a bucket right before the half which cut Lincoln’s lead to 26-25.

After the break in action, Tiverton went on a 8-2 run as Lincoln found itself in their largest hole of game - seven.

Tiverton then bounced back with eight straight points of their own including two drives to the basket by Gocioch as he fought through contact and regained is team their first lead in about nine minutes.

With just five minutes to play, and Lincoln leading, Tiverton showed their grit on back-to- back buckets as both Murray and Hart earned their own offensive rebound and finished. This was before Murray drove the basket again and scored two more points which tied the game at 41; forcing Lincoln to call a timeout.

With just under two and a half minutes to play, Hrycin earned his eighth and ninth points of the game off a well-placed inbound pass as the large crowd that filled all four bleachers erupted with their team taking a 43-41 lead.

Tiverton earned another gutty basket from Gacioch who, fighting through some sort of injury all day, put one in from under the basket to give his team a 45-43 lead with just 1:05 left on the clock.

On Lincoln’s next possession, Gacioch look an offensive charge that gave Tiverton the ball back. The Lions got to the line for a one-and-one, but missed the first which kept the Tigers lead at two.

Tiverton, still up 45-43, grabbed the defensive rebound and turned it the other way. A Tiger was awarded a one-and-one of his own that he missed with just 14.9 seconds remaining. However, Murray was able to fight his way to the loose ball which he corralled before the junior captain was fouled.

Murray uncharacteristically missed his first throw and the Lions rebounded the ball which gave them what looked to be their final chance with 5.9 second left.

After a timeout, Lincoln lost handle of the ball, but it bounced off a Tiverton defender with just 1.1 second left on the clock. A contested three-pointer at the buzzer fell well short as the Tigers celebrated a nail-biting 45-43 win.

The victory improves Tiverton to 12-0 with just five games remaining as Coach Landoch tried to keep his team focused on the larger goal.

“There is still a doubt from people around who say, ‘hey you are playing Division-III’ but we don’t think about it,” he said.” We want to win in the playoffs and get to the state tournament and hopefully we can do that. ”

The Tigers already have their highest win total since the 2010-11 season which has the school and community strongly supporting the team.

“It is great,” Coach Landoch said. “You see the environment in here. It is getting people involved to come and see the game which is always a really positive thing that is a lot of fun.”

Before snow cancelled most events, Tiverton was to have stayed at home to face Exeter/West Greenwich on Thursday evening, Feb. 9 , before traveling to Paul Cuffee School on Saturday, Feb. 11, to wrap up the week.

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