HARTFORD — Ryan Gomes took a breather and imparted a bit of NBA-honed wisdom to Keith Cothran:
"Gee said, 'Time to turn it up,'" Cothran said, "and that's what I did."
Cothran scored nine points in a row as Harte Nissan, its 15-point lead vanished, regained control of the game and went on to beat the Recycle King Naughty Boyz 159-141 in the first game of the best-of-three Greater Hartford Pro–Am championship series Monday Night at Classical Magnet School.
Harte can clinch the title on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. If a third game is necessary, it would be played Thursday night.
Cothran, who played at Rhode Island and plays professionally in Iceland, ended up scoring 41 points and Lamonte Ullmer, who also played at URI and professionally in Luxembourg, had 33 and 12 rebounds. Both were at their best in the fourth quarter, as Harte outscored Recycle King 52-32 over the last 14 minutes of the game.
"When Keith made that run, that sealed the game for us," said Gomes, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds. "He's able to penetrate to the basket so well, and Lamonte just plays above the rim. The intensity those guys brought at the end of the third quarter turned the game in our favor."
Not surprisingly, the gym filled to capacity and the two teams in the finals staged a scoring rampage — even by GHPA standards. Both teams were over the 100-point mark with nearly 16 minutes left to play. Harte Nissan, a team that has been together for several years, put it together halfway through the second quarter, making a 24-9 run to open up a 15-point lead. Gomes scored 20 points in the first half.
Doug Wiggins also scored 20 in the first half for Recycle King, which made its run in the third quarter. Playing a small, extremely quick lineup featuring Wiggins, Jerome Dyson of the Phoenix Suns and SMU-bound Danny Lawhorn in the back court, Simoniz cut it quickly. Lawlor's three-pointer with 4:32 left in the third quarter cut it to one, 97-96.
"We have to play smaller and it's effective at times," said Wiggins, who finished with 32 points. "But it hurts us on the defensive end. There are mismatches, we really don't have anyone who can match up with Gomes. It has to be a team effort on defense."
Wiggins drove the lane and scored to tie the game at 102 with 3:16 left in the third, and he scored again off a turnover to give the Naughty Boyz the lead, 109-107. Harte regained the lead, 117-113, by the end of the quarter, as Cothran scored seven points in a row, but Recycle King had scored a whopping 48 points over the 12-minute period.
Harte regained control early in the fourth, Ullmer's three stretched the lead back to nine, 123-114, as foul trouble began to take a toll on the Naughty Boyz. Kuran Iverson eventually fouled out.
"We knew they had some guys in foul trouble," Ullmer said, "so we just wanted to attack them."
Dyson finished the game with a triple double, 30 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. Dyson had four steals, Wiggins seven.
"Just like in the NBA," Gomes said, "when you win game one of a series, it puts pressure on the other team. We want to wrap this up Wednesday. We feel like we have some momentum."
In the women's championship game earlier in the evening, Doc Hurley beat State Farms/CT Spirit 88-58. Shamika Jackson had 22 points and 15 rebounds for Doc Hurley (7-0), and Lexi Vazquez had 21 points.
Quay Baskerville scored 14, Nikka Smith had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Spirit, who finished 5-2.