TAMPA — Fans of defense were entertained by the Berkeley Invitational final Wednesday night as Wharton defeated Vero Beach 46-39.
From the opening tip, points were hard to come by, and there were no easy baskets. Vero Beach had just 13 field goals while Wharton converted only 14.
“Someone told me before the game that they thought the score of this final would be 42-38,” Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said. “I told them that was okay as long as we were the team that had 42.”
After leading by four at halftime, Wharton used a 10-1 run to extend its lead.
But Vero Beach wouldn’t go quietly. The Indians opened the fourth quarter on a 7-2 run, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to one with just more than two minutes remaining.
But from that point the Wharton defense came up big. Vero Beach scored only two more points, while Wharton scored the final eight from the free-throw line.
CJ McGill (tournament MVP) and Troy Holston combined to score 34 of the Wildcats’ 46.
“Those two really came up big for us tonight,” Tonelli said. “They aren’t afraid to step up in the big moments.”
Holston and McGill are close friends and allow that to translate to their success on the court.
“We are so happy to have the opportunity to play with one another,” Holston said.
Wharton was able to take advantage of Vero Beach’s shooting troubles. The Indians were 4-of-23 from 3-point range and went 7-of-16 from the free-throw line.
“I wanted to see if they could make shots,” Tonelli said. “No disrespect at all to them, but I hadn’t seen them shoot it well in the prior game. So we wanted to force them to shoot, and luckily the strategy worked out pretty well for us.”
The tournament win puts Wharton at 10-1 heading into the holiday break.
“Winning this tournament, we have a lot of confidence going into next year,” McGill said. “We’re ready to go.”