Staten Island, NY | Tournament MVP Adeola Latunji, poured in 24 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the 98-94 win over Tufts University in the 17th Tournament of Heroes. Tonight marked just the second meeting between these two teams and it was 34 years to the day since that last meeting.
Joining Latunji on the All-Tournament team was Christian Taylor who scored 22 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double of the tournament. Stephen Flagg continues to make his presence felt when on the court. Flagg added 21 points and when called upon took the game over to give the Dolphins a lead.
Staten Island got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 10-2 lead against a Tufts team that is known to start fast. The Jumbos would quickly close that gap down to just three when Brennan Morris caught fire and scored eight straight points. The Dolphins would maintain their lead until there was 11:27 remaining in the first half. Carson Cohen would sink a 3-point shot to knot the game up at 22.
Carson’s shot seemed to have switched momentum in favor of the Jumbos as they would take a seven-point lead before the Dolphins got back in their groove. Austin Mick has had his struggles from range this season but was able to forget about them this afternoon as he sunk back-to-back three’s to swing the tide back into the Dolphins’ favor. Rigaud Destime would pick up four points to keep the Dolphins narrowly ahead of the Jumbos as time began to disappear in the first half.
With just a one-point lead three seconds left, Taylor was able to get the ball down the court and dish a pass to Destime who laid it in for a buzzer-beating layup. The layup gave the Dolphins a nice boost heading into the half.
Unfortunately, that boost would not carry over to the start of the second half as the Jumbos took control and took a six-point lead. Midway through the second half, Taylor cashed in a pair from the charity stripe to give the Dolphins just their second lead of the half. Andrew Kartalis continues to put in quality minutes for the team and gave the Dolphins a five-point lead with a fast-break layup.
As the time dwindled away both teams opted to play inside and both found success doing so. Both teams tallied 20+ points in the second half alone after scoring just 28 combined in the first half. With both teams converting high percentage shots, the lead flip-flopped back-and-forth as neither team could keep hold of the lead. With 3:39 remaining in the game and the Dolphins down one, Kartalis would take the pass from Flagg and sink a shot from range to put the Dolphins up for good.
Flagg was dominant in the second half and took over the game, reaching the rim whenever he chose. Flagg’s inside dominance opened the game for the rest of the Dolphins which helped them keep their lead with less than three minutes remaining. Up five with 1:30 to go, Justin Koyoudjian found himself wide open on the wing and pulled up only to be fouled by Latunji to head to the line. Koyoudijian would convert all three to make it a two-point game with 44 seconds left.
Flagg would miss a jumper from the corner of the elbow which prompted a timeout from Tufts. With the ball in the Dolphins’ half down two, the Jumbos looked primed to tie the game up. Destime had other plans, however. Destime had subbed into the game during the timeout and proved to be a wise entrant into the game. Eric Savage had the ball stolen from him by Destime which essentially locked up the game as Latunji would be fouled later on. Latunji would convert both chances when his team needed him most to seal the game and give the Dolphins their first championship since 2015.
Up next for the Dolphins is York College on Thursday, January 3 at The Tank at 7:30 pm.