WESTERLY — South Kingstown senior captain Cameron Munroe saw it this way — he wasn't about to let a spirited comeback by the Rebels boys basketball team go to waste.
Instead, Munroe made a free throw with 0.1 seconds left, lifting South Kingstown to an improbable 43-42 victory over Stonington High in the opening round of the 35th annual WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament on Wednesday night at Federico Gym.
"I knew I had to hit it," Munroe said. "We had a great comeback. I knew I had to put it away."
South Kingstown will play Westerly, a 69-63 winner over Chariho, in the title game on Friday at 8 p.m. Stonington will face the Chargers in the consolation contest at 6:15 p.m.
Stonington had tied the game at 42 with 5.6 seconds remaining on a putback by Jacob Geary.
South Kingstown followed by rushing up the court, and Munroe went to the floor just over half-court. The Bears were called for a foul on the play.
For most of the Stonington fans, however, it appeared Munroe's own momentum in the scramble took him to the floor.
"From what I saw, that was not a trip. It just looked like he fell," Stonington coach John Luzzi said. "I am never going to say an official cost us the the game. I will never go there. Credit South Kingstown, they fought back.
"But I've never seen a call of that magnitude made with .1 seconds left in a game in my life, and I've been coaching at the high school level for 15 years."
Stonington took a 16-point lead, 33-17, on a 3-pointer by R.J. Parrilla with 9:32 remaining in the second half. It appeared the Bears were headed to Friday's title game.
South Kingstown coach Roland Fiore called a timeout 11 seconds later, and when the Rebels returned to the floor, Munroe was the only starter on the court.
"We made a decision to go with who we felt would be more active," Fiore said. "They are primarily a 3-point shooting team and we were really flat on our feet. It was our worst defensive performance of the year. So, we had our backs against the wall and that was the antidote."
From that point, the Rebels outscored the Bears 23-2 to take a 40-35 lead with 2:24 left. SK pressed and caused some turnovers and the Rebels shot a bit better in the spurt.
Stonington, on the other hand, lost its shooting touch, failing to make a field goal down the stretch. The Bears went 2 for 6 from the free-throw line, too. It was a combination of a number of issues that got SK back in the game.
"We had wide-open look after wide-open look that we missed," Luzzi said. "It wasn't anything they were doing defensively. We just missed shots. If we make open shots, we win by 15."
A pair of free throws by South Kingstown's Richard Hall gave the Rebels a 42-36 lead with 2:09 left. But Geary scored an inside basket and Parrilla converted a drive to leave the Bears down two, 42-40, with 1:16 left and setting up the final wild scenario.
Three of the South Kingstown starters did not play the final 9:32 of the contest.
"They play 10 guys and they were ready to play. It was a good move by their coach," Luzzi said. "Defensively, we started taking some stupid chances going for double-teams and traps that weren't there."
Munroe led the Rebels with 13 points, nine of them in the second half.
"The bench was such a spark plug for us," Munroe said. "They played great."
Zach Scott led the Bears in scoring with 16 points, five of them in the second half. He also made a pair of 3-pointers. Marquis Jackson finished with 12 points and an astounding 22 rebounds as a guard. He also had five assists.
Stonington dropped to 3-1 with the loss. The Rebels are 3-2.