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Close, scrappy games typical in KASSAA basketball quarter-finals

February 12, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

When a senior boys basketball team has 12 points at halftime, you can safely say it’s not playing well.

When that same team is still in the game, trailing by just four points, you can pretty well say the other team can’t be playing that well, either.

Such was the case at Holy Cross Tuesday night, where the Crusaders eventually left the court with a 40-28 victory over the Sydenham Golden Eagles.

It was a game typical of the four Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association quarter-finals. Pick your adjective: Ugly, scrappy, gritty, or maybe even lousy, dreadful, painful to watch. Be you diplomat or cynic, any one could be apt.

That’s not to say the games were without drama; the winners all had to come from behind to do so. Let’s just say the producers looking for classic clips for their highlight videos largely went home empty handed.

Take the game at Holy Cross. It took the Crusaders almost five and a half minutes to score their first basket. Sydenham jumped to an early 5-0 lead, but the Eagles scored just seven points in the final 13 minutes of the first half.

It looked as though there might not be a team in the gym capable of winning the game.

“Nerves,” Crusaders coach Robin Dzierniejko said of his team’s slow start. “It was like the Memorial; a bigger game, guys are going to get a little antsy. We had 14 turnovers in the first two and a half quarters, and I would say 12 of those were from our guards … balls getting tipped off, guys looking to do a little too much or to make a little bit too-difficult pass. Tunnel vision, but they figured it out.”

That started to happen, Dzierniejko said, during a timeout called by fellow coach Alf DeMelo.

“He said, ‘Just breathe, guys, relax,’” Dzierniejko said. “It was around that point where they started to play. They calmed down. They relaxed.

“Every possession you’ve got to play like it’s your last but you don’t want to do too much.”

It was — yawn — 5-4 at the end of the first quarter. Holy Cross, the league’s fourth-place team in the regular year at 7-3, took the lead midway through the second quarter at 8-6.

“A lot of teams have been collapsing on us lately but today we actually hit some shots from outside and other guys got involved,” Dzierniejko said. “That kept Sydenham honest. At first they were collapsing on Brent (Martindale) and he wasn’t getting any touches but other guys started stepping up.”

With Jonathan Besselink scoring back-to-back three-point baskets, the Crusaders led by as much as seven points and eventually 16-12 at halftime.

A three-point basket by Dylan Fisher to open the second half cut Sydenham’s deficit to one but Holy Cross scored the next 10 points in a row. The visitors cut the gap to five by the end of the third quarter but got no closer, failing to get a basket in the final period. The Eagles’ five points came from 5-for-10 shooting from the foul line.

Jeremy Pendergast led Holy Cross with 15 points, seven of them in the fourth quarter.

“Jeremy had a brilliant game,” DeMelo said. “He was a vocal leader for the first time this year; he was able to calm guys down when things weren’t going well. He played 28 of 32 minutes. Offensively it was his best production.”

More than just substantial, Dzierniejko said Pendergast’s contributions were timely.

“Sometimes he tries to do a little too much,” Dzierniejko said. “Today he was patient, and looking for his opportunities.”

Besselink and Martindale each added eight points to the Holy Cross attack.

Tom Withey and Ben Lusk each scored nine points for Sydenham, the league’s fifth-place team at 6-4. The only team to beat regular-season champion La Salle this year, the Eagles could not avenge a 15-point defeat against a Holy Cross team that had lost its last two games.

In Tuesday’s other quarter-finals, the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers erased a five-point deficit with 90 seconds to play as they defeated the Kingston Blues 37-36, the Frontenac Falcons fell behind early but recovered to beat the Bayridge Blazers 42-32 and La Salle dumped the eighth-seeded Loyalist Lancers 63-29.

As a result, Holy Cross will visit Frontenac at 3:30 Thursday in one semifinal, while La Salle will host Regi in the other at 4 o’clock.

As KASSAA’s last surviving AA team, La Salle has already earned a berth in the Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association tournament.

At Frontenac, Bayridge hung in longer than many people expected against a Frontenac team that had won seven in a row, and beat the Blazers by 17 points when they met in the regular season.

The Blazers scored the first basket of the second quarter to take a 14-13 lead. They erased a five-point deficit to tie the game 21-21 at halftime, and they overcame an eight-point disadvantage near the end of the third quarter to tie the game 32-32 with four and a half minutes to play.

That was the last hurrah for Bayridge, however, as Frontenac scored the game’s final 10 points.

“It was just one of those scrappy games,” Falcons coach Suche James said. “It’s the way the league was the whole year and we didn’t expect anything less in the playoffs.

“We just hit a couple of timely hoops at the end. There wasn’t really anything else to it.”

Though Bayridge refused to go away, James said his team remained confident that it would prevail.

“It was tight but our guys didn’t really panic,” he said. “We kept going at it, hoping for something good to happen and eventually it did. It never really crossed our minds that we were going to lose that game. That’s just how our guys have been.”

Ultimately the Blazers didn’t have an answer for Frontenac’s Carter Matheson, who scored more than half of his team’s points — 22, including eight of his team’s 10 points in the third quarter.

Tristan Halladay had 11 points for the Falcons, including a three-pointer that broke the fourth-quarter tie and a basket after he stole the ball at midcourt about a minute later that gave Frontenac a seven-point lead.

Austin Macklem and Derek Platt scored 11 points apiece for Bayridge.

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