BURLINGTON – As Genoa-Kingston point guard Tommy Lucca weaved in and out of defenders in his own backcourt with 10 seconds left after Burlington Central took a one-point lead Thursday, the sophomore had his mind set on driving to the basket, as he had the previous three times down the floor.
But a Burlington Central defender stepped in his way, forcing him to pick up his dribble beyond the three-point line. Without a second thought, Lucca took a step, rose up and hit a running 3-pointer, which would be the game-winner in a 62-59 victory.
“I was planning on going to the hole the whole way, but they cut me off,” said Lucca, who missed the previous two games with a sprained knee. “I already took a step, so I had to just put it up, and it happened to go in.”
In the previous few weeks, the Cogs (7-1, 2-0 Big Northern East) showed how deep they are by winning their two games without their all-area senior and starter Sal Lopez, who remains out.
On Thursday, with defenders hanging on him all game, Lucca showed how valuable having a go-to player can be.
Lucca took the Cogs on his back over the final two minutes, driving to the basket time after time. He scored nine of his game-high 22 points over the last 1:26, despite going down with 1:09 left, scaring coach Corey Jenkins and G-K fans while holding his leg after he was fouled. The injury was just a cramp after he played the entire game up to that point, but Lucca was forced to come out of the game, leaving senior Colin Broderick to come in and sink two free throws in his place.
“[Lucca] runs our offense, he’s kind of a floor general out there, and for the most part, he plays under control,” Jenkins said. “You could see where his basketball legs were failing him late in the game, he started to get fatigued and tired from that week, week-and-a-half off from the injury. Thank God that was just a cramp when he went down. But he battled through it, he showed some guts and got through it.”
After G-K took an early lead behind 11 first-half points from Lucca, the Rockets (7-1, 1-1 BNC North) went on a 15-5 run late in the second quarter to go into halftime with a 31-25 advantage.
Behind 13 second-half points from Danny Hansen, the Cogs charged back, and they finally took a lead when Lucca finished off a conventional three-point play with 1:26 left. Griffin McNeal scored 11 points for G-K, and the Cogs showed they have plenty of scoring options throughout the game.
But with the game on the line, the star lifted his team and led the Cogs to a huge program win.
“[Lucca] was phenomenal,” Hansen said. “We knew we were still in the game, and we kept making shots. ... This is a big win, because we’ve never beaten them since I’ve been in high school.”