Barrington's Raymond Tolentino wasn't the biggest guy on the court last night at Conant, but he certainly had the game's biggest basket.
With 3.6 seconds remaining, after a timeout, the 5-foot-9 guard took an inbounds pass in the frontcourt, turned, and almost surprised to find himself virtually alone, zipped to the hoop for a layin at the buzzer, his sixth and seventh points in a 52-50 Mid-Suburban West-opening victory.
Why was he so open? As you might expect, Conant smothered Barrington senior point guard Brad Zaumseil (16 points) with a double-team off the ball. "We were going to force someone else to beat us," said Cougars coach Tom McCormack.
And Tolentino did just that. After not cracking the lineup as a junior, he worked hard anyway.
"He was preparing himself for this," said Barrington coach Bryan Tucker of his newest starting guard. The Broncos start three of them, and therefore give aways some height. Conant (1-3, 0-1) made them pay early with a huge rebounding advantage and an early lead thanks to Robert Hudson (17 points) and the shooting of Mark Monti (11).
But when starters Monti and Danny Sotos got in foul trouble, "We had to play guys out of position," said McCormack.
That contributed to Zaumseil taking over the game, and not just with his shooting. His uncanny floor game enables him to see the court so well and he broke the game open as much with his assists to Vinnie Tuzil and Austin Madrzyk as he did with his ballhawking and shooting.
Barrington (3-3, 1-0) went from trailing 13-9 after one to ahead by the half and didn't surrender the lead again until Monti's 3 tied the game at 50-50 and completed a comeback from down 44-35 after three, setting up Tolentino's heroics.
"I knew all the pressure (from Conant's defense) was going to be on Brad," Tolentino said.
"I went up against Ray all last year," in practice, Zaumseil said, noting his confidence in him.
"If he's [Zaumseil] not on the floor, we're not competing," Tucker said of his star.
Barrington, also foul-plagued in an extremely physical contest, got valuable minutes from sophomore guard Luke Johnson off the bench and from hard-working Zach Bart and Robby Vollman against Conant's taller lineup.
"Our kids adjusted," to the steady diet of whistles at both ends and the total physical nature of the contest, said Tucker.
But it still came down to those final three-and-a-half seconds and the biggest play by the smallest guy.
"We knew if (Zaumseil) got the ball," said McCormack, "he'd go hard to the hole and we'd have to foul him," something they couldn't do, being in the bonus.
"I was setting the back screen for Austin (Madrzyk)," said Zaumseil. "Ray got it and made a big play."