Justin Tocays gives up a few inches against other power forwards. He gives up his body for loose balls. Tuesday, he also gave up his seat on the bench.
"He has been the hardest working kid over the first three weeks of the season," Hicksville coach Phil Essigman said. "He's the heart of our team right now. I told him I was going to reward him by starting him and he rewarded us by coming up big."
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Tocays, an undersized 5-10 forward, started the game and finished it, scoring two late buckets to help host Hicksville defeat Herricks, 52-49, in non-league.
Nick Petrucelli, who had 12 points, hit a three-pointer as the shot clock was winding down to give Hicksville a 48-46 lead with three minutes to go. It was the Comets' first lead since early in the second quarter and Tocays made it stand. Clinging to a one-point lead, he fought for an offensive rebound and putback with 1:56 left.
A pair of free throws by Andrew Fellus (11 points) cut the deficit to one before Tocays converted a layup with 25 seconds left. Fellus' potential game-tying three from deep on the right wing rimmed out with just more than 10 seconds to go.
"I just had to be clutch and do good for my team," said Tocays, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. "You have all those guys in there that work hard and it's good that I'm being noticed."
TJ Danns, a 6-5 center who scored nine first-quarter points, converted a three-point play that cut Herricks' lead to one early in the fourth quarter. Danns finished with 20 points and nine rebounds to give Hicksville, a team coming off a 3-8 season, a win it its opener.
"It's good to start out with a win because we had a pretty bad season last year," Danns said. "But this should be a good start to a good season."
Herricks (1-2) opened its largest lead of the game midway through the third quarter after a turnaround jumper by George Malonoukos, who had 17 of his 23 points in the first half, and a running floater by Sudheer Nuggehalli gave the Highlanders a 33-25 advantage.
But Hicksville came back thanks in part to its new starter, Tocays.
Said Essigman: "He'll be in the starting lineup on Friday."