By CLAUDE SCILLEY
By the end of the season, Geoff Stewart suspects, he might be grateful that his Bayridge Blazers had the kind of early season schedule they’ve had.
“We’re going to get a lot better,” the Bayridge coach said after the Blazers defeated the Kingston Blues 50-39 Thursday afternoon in the main gym at the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre.
Commencing the campaign against Frontenac, Sydenham and KC, teams that figure to be close to the top of the heap at the end of the season—teams that were a collective 7-0 at the start of the day—provides fertile ground for learning, even if it means starting the season 0-2.
“We’ve got four kids who haven’t played a lot of high school basketball, who are learning, every time they step on the floor, something new about the game,” Stewart said. “We’re going to have some pieces in February that are going to look a little more polished than they maybe they look now.
“We’re very much a seven-man rotation now, with a little bit of supporting cast in the right situation in the right time of the game, but I think we’re going to be nine or 10 or 11 guys deep by the time the season is done.”
From 6-6 midway through the first quarter, Bayridge scored the next 12 points. The Blazers stretched that to a 30-11 lead by halftime, as the Blues went about seven minutes at one point without scoring a basket.
For the second game in a row, the Blues were without Sayer Powers, one of the premier players in the league, who is nursing an ankle injury.
“We did catch a bit of a break on that,” Stewart said. “That’s not to disrespect the other kids, but Sayer’s got a level of experience in the game that some of the kids … don’t have.
“They’re an easier team to defend when Reilly (Lacasandile) and Isaac (Foley) are a package deal, as opposed to part of a trio. It was good for us at this time of the year to catch that break and hopefully get a little bit of momentum going into the holidays.”
Stewart pointed to good shooting and “good defensive energy” in the first half as important elements of the victory.
“Part of that was (the Blues) missed some shots that they probably should have hit,” Stewart said, “but going into the half up 30-11 made the second half … less stressful.”
The Bayridge lead grew to 20 points early in the third quarter, when KC went on an 11-2 run to close the gap to 11 points, but they never got closer than that.
The defensive energy of which Stewart spoke arose, he said, from a viewing of the Toronto Raptors game against Denver Monday night. “They talked about the previous practice being one where the coach had focused entirely on the defensive side of the ball,” Stewart said. “I told the guys after the game against Sydenham (Tuesday) that yesterday’s practice was going to be a Raptors practice: we were going to work on our rotations; we’re going to work on our energy, and work on our communication.
“It’s not there yet. It isn’t where I’d like to see it be by the end of the season, but it’s certainly in a spot where I’m pretty happy with it on Dec. 11.”
Austin Macklem was the game-high scorer for Bayridge, with 19 points, 13 of them in the first half.
“At key times in the game Austin was a very difficult person to defend, and he should be,” Stewart said of his veteran. “He’s the kind of guy that, if he’s clicking, can put up 20 without it looking terribly difficult.”
Matt Brash added 14 points to the Bayridge attack, including a pair of three-point baskets, while Jordan Fehr scored nine.
The Blues, who managed just three field goals in the first half en route to their first defeat in four games, got a dozen points from Lacasandile, including a pair of fourth-quarter threes. Robert Cadman came off the bench to deliver 11 points, eight of them in the second half.
Elsewhere in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association Thursday, the Sydenham Golden Eagles, 3-0, remained undefeated as they handed the Holy Cross Crusaders, 2-1, their first defeat of the season, 41-30; the Frontenac Falcons joined Sydenham at 3-0 with a 75-43 win over the Queen Elizabeth Raiders at QE; the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers improved to 2-0 with a 59-28 win over the Loyalist Lancers, and the Napanee Golden Hawks evened their record at 2-2 with a 53-30 home-court win over the winless Granite Ridge Gryphons.
• Spirited defensive play led to the game at Holy Cross being stunningly low scoring at the start, as visiting Sydenham led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. More than a minute into the second period, all the Crusaders had to show for offence was a three-point basket by Jeremy Pendergast. An 11-2 run late in the first half, however, allowed the home team to turn a seven-point deficit into a two-point lead before a late three sent the Eagles into the intermission with a 17-16 lead.
Holy Cross scored nine of the first 10 points in the second half to lead by seven, 25-18, but then the Crusaders went cold. Sydenham scored the next 12 points in a run fueled by a pair of players off the bench: Kurt MacComish, who completed a three-point play, and Eric Lusk, whose basket at the buzzer gave the Eagles a 28-25 lead going into the fourth quarter.
It was a rough-and-tumble affair, as evidenced by the facts that, collectively, the teams were assessed 10 charging fouls, and Sydenham managed to pull away in a 13-5 fourth quarter despite scoring just one basket, thanks to 11 points from 19 foul shots.
In fact, Sydenham managed just three field goals in the entire second half, and were 16-for-26 in the final two periods from the free-throw line.
Ben Lusk led Sydenham with 13 points, while Steve Kennedy scored 12. Pendergast finished the game with nine points for Holy Cross, seven of them in the first half.
• Playing at Loyalist, Duncan Lambert scored 12 points in the first quarter as the Panthers raced to an 18-7 lead. The Lancers were largely held at bay by the Regi defence, as the visitors benefited from some strong outside shooting that included an 8-for-16 performance from beyond the three-point arc.
Lambert finished the game with 18 points, while Eli DeLuzio added 14 points to a Regi attack that got a contribution from 11 different players. Kaelan Ingersoll scored 10 points for LC.