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Panthers upset KC in senior basketball quarter-final

February 12, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

On the final practice before his team embarked on the senior high school basketball playoffs, Ed Kenney had a message for his two junior-age starters.

“We said, ‘You’re not allowed to be Grade 10s anymore,’” the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers coach recalled. “We’re not going to turn around and say, ‘Ah, they’re Grade 10s,’ (and excuse their mistakes).”

As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary.

Nick Savoie and Eli Deluzio were both significant contributors Tuesday to Regi’s 37-36 win over the Kingston Blues in one of four Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association quarter-finals.

Point guard Deluzio, in particular, was dominant defensively in the first half, and in the final minute he stole the ball near midcourt and went in to score the basket that tied the score 36-36.

“For Eli Deluzio it was a great day,” Kenney said.

Regi played in the same KC gym last week and blew an eight-point halftime lead on its way to a 49-40 defeat, one that ultimately cost the Panthers a top-four finish and a home playoff game.

“In the second half,” Kenney said, “Eli lost his confidence. He’s two years younger than a lot of these boys. He started to worry about his mistakes.”

That didn’t happen Tuesday.

“Today, one, he didn’t make many mistakes,” Kenney said, “and, two, the ones he made, he just kept on playing. Eli turned around and brushed off a little negative stuff and stayed positive.

“He grew up a lot.”

Regi owned the first half and with Enzo Romeo hitting three three-point baskets, the Panthers led 21-13 at halftime.

As if to suggest that trailing by eight at the intermission meant KC had its opponent right where it wanted it, the Blues outscored the visitors 15-8 in the third quarter to tie the game.

“The first quarter and a half was my bad,” KC coach Sam Miller said. “We had prepared a particular defence that hadn’t anticipated that their kid who hit the threes was going to hit threes.

“Our kids executed what we wanted to them to do. We just got burned.”

Pressure defence, Miller said, was the essence of comeback.

“We’re athletic,” he said. “We’re not big, we’re not super strong, but we can pressure a team. When we started to press, any team’s going to get rattled and they’ll turn the ball over a little bit.”

A modest 6-1 run in the middle of the fourth quarter had KC leading by five points with about a minute and a half to play. That’s when Regi’s Duncan Lambert hit a three-point shot and the Panthers called time out.

About 30 seconds later Deluzio scored the tying basket after KC guard Reilly Lacasandile mishandled the ball. It was an unfortunate outcome for Lacasandile, who played a stellar game in the face of withering pressure in the first half and nailed a three-pointer late in the third quarter that tied the game 28-28.

On the next trip up the floor KC was called for travelling. Regi’s Connor Santoni was fouled and made one of two shots with 28.2 seconds left for the go-ahead point.

The Panthers had opportunities to put the game away but first Deluzio and then Santoni missed the front end of a potential bonus foul-shooting situation. KC called its final timeout with 8.4 seconds on the clock.

The Blues couldn’t get a good look at the basket and a desperation three-point attempt by Sayre Powers in the dying seconds failed.

Kenney suggested there was more to Santoni’s influence on the outcome than scoring the game-winning point.

“Before the game Connor turned around and said we weren’t going to worry about any of the extra stuff and we were just going to focus on what we needed to do,” Kenney said. “There are times in our season when we’ve done a really good job of that and there have been times when we struggled with it.

“The fact that it came from our fifth-year boy in the change room, the boys really listened to that. Connor’s words were really important.”

Though KC had come all the way back from being eight points down, Kenney said there was never any sense of concern at the three-quarters break. “It was more like, ‘OK, it’s even and we can beat those guys over eight minutes, so let’s do it.’

“What was more important was the timeout with (2:59) left, down by three. It was the same thing: ‘OK, we’re one possession away, those guys like long possessions, it’s really hard to kill two and a half minutes. We’ll get at least one chance.’”

KC played a ball control game in the fourth quarter, quite effectively. Unfortunately for the Blues, it didn’t necessarily deliver points.

“We didn’t want to go into a full stall, we just wanted to set them up to go back door on them,” Miller explained. “We executed well. We just didn’t finish.”

Regi got almost half its points, 16, from Lambert. Romeo was next in line with nine points for the Panthers, who were just 3-for-10 from the free-throw line in the second half.

Powers scored 11 points for KC, while Wes Laird scored nine.

The Panthers, who finished the regular year in sixth place at 5-5, staged the only upset of Tuesday’s quarter-final round. Regi will advance to play top-seeded La Salle in a semifinal game Thursday, 4 p.m., at La Salle.

The Knights, 9-1 in the regular season, defeated the Loyalist Lancers 63-29 in their quarter-final game Tuesday.

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