By CLAUDE SCILLEY
It’s a deadly combination, many coaches will tell you: If you’re not scoring, and you can’t get any rebounds off the offensive glass, it’s pretty tough to win a basketball game.
The Bayridge Blazers were living proof of that early in their senior high school match Tuesday afternoon, as they quickly fell 10 points behind the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers.
Blazers coach Geoff Stewart seemed unconcerned, however; one problem was eminently correctable and the other, he believed, would eventually take care of itself.
Turns out, he was right.
The Blazers overcame what eventually grew to be a 12-point deficit to defeat the Panthers 69-59, claiming their fifth win in a row and handing Regi its first defeat in five Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association games this season.
It was a terrifically entertaining game, with the teams at times alternately engaging in run-and-gun basketball, crash-and-bang play, and episodes of deliberate precision. Only once this season has a team scored more than Bayridge’s 69 points—Sydenham, which scored 70 against Granite Ridge in the first week of the season—and the two teams combined for 128 points, most of any game in the league this year.
It took Bayridge more than four minutes to score its first basket Tuesday, but the Blazers emerged from what looked like a pretty serious funk to draw to 21-13 at quarter time to lead by two points, 37-35, at the half.
Of the two issues that were plaguing his team at the start of the game, Stewart said he was more concerned with the rebounding.
“The shots were good shots that weren’t going in,” Stewart said. “If we’re creating the type of shots that we want to create, and they don’t go down, there’s only so much that anybody can control, but if you’re not doing something that’s entirely within your control, like boxing out on every shot, that tends to come back and hurt you more frequently.”
Even when his team was down 14-2, Stewart said he was confident his players would regain their shooting eye.
“I know we can score,” he said. “Even the games that we lost, we’ve put decent numbers on the board. We put 56 up against Frontenac, we put 55 up against Sydenham, and right now those are the two best teams in the league, though I’m not going to count Holy Cross or Regi out.
“Last year we were struggling to cross 40 against Frontenac and if we’re putting 56 up on them in the regular season, and we put 61 up on them later in the Queen’s tournament, the scoring piece isn’t an issue. If we could figure out a way not to give up 21 every quarter, by improving our ability to rebound and do things better on defence here and there, we’d be in a good position at the end of every game. We’d have a chance to win.”
Most prominent among the Blazers who found his touch as the game progressed was Austin Macklem, who finished the game with 33 points, a tally that included a pair of three-point baskets and 10-for-15 shooting from the free-throw line.
“That Austin missed his first four shots wasn’t a worry for me,” Stewart said. “He’s a kid who’s going to make one, and when he makes one, he’ll make two; and when he makes two he makes six and he’s off to the races.”
Regi coach Ed Kenney said Macklem was uncanny.
“He took jump shots that were grown-man jump shots,” Kenny said. “In the air, follow through. We ran him off the line, I don’t know many he hit, one dribble, one step inside the three-point line.
“They teach kids not to that, but they went in.”
Macklem’s opposite No. 32, Regi’s Duncan Lambert, finished with a game-best 36 points, including all 14 of his team’s points in the fourth quarter.
“When we went 10-0 to start, the pace was good for us,” Kenney said. “The Bayridge group slowed it down and when they slowed it down, it became more about execution as opposed to pace.
“For a long portion of the game, we traded blows with them. At the end of the game they executed a little better than we did. We had a couple of plays where we had really good looks at the basket but we didn’t get rewarded.
“If they had not shot the ball so well in the first half, they would not have been able to slow it down, simply because we had them on the run from the get-go.”
The teams were tied three separate times in the second quarter and Bayridge didn’t take the lead until less than two minutes remained to be played in the half, at 34-32. At that point, Lambert was assessed a technical foul and Bayridge made one of the free throws and a basket on the ensuing possession.
The home team’s lead eventually grew to eight points midway through the third quarter, and bounced between four and eight points for most of the remainder of the game.
Twice in the fourth quarter the Panthers got within three points—and they drew to within four when Lambert hit a three with two minutes left in the game—but they couldn’t pull even. Bayridge got its last eight points from the foul line.
“They shot the ball better than we did,” Kenney said, “though that’s the worst excuse a coach can ever come up with. Fundamentally, when the game was athletic and fast, we executed best; (and) when it slowed down, we were fine, but at the end of the game they simply did a better job. Foul shots and rebounds at the end of the game? They hit enough and they got enough of the rebounds that we couldn’t get a push.”
Tom McCabe came off the bench early to score eight points for Regi, six of them in the first quarter. Matt Brash, with 11 points, and Michael Powley, with 10, reached double figures for Bayridge.
• Jeremy Pendergast scored 18 points to lead the Holy Cross Crusaders past the Granite Ridge Gryphons 57-25. Playing at home, Dave Cox scored 11 points for the Gryphons.
• The first-place Frontenac Falcons stretched their lead over second-place Sydenham to four points as they claimed their seventh consecutive victory, 77-40 over the Kingston Blues, who lost for the third time in their last four games to fall to 4-3.
Play resumes Wednesday, when Sydenham, 5-0, visits Napanee, 2-4. On Thursday, the final day of play before the two-week end-of-semester exam break, Bayridge, 5-2, will entertain the La Salle Black Knights, 2-4; Napanee visits Frontenac; the Loyalist Lancers, 1-6, will travel to Sydenham, and in the marquee game, Regi, 4-1, and Holy Cross, 3-2, will meet in the 28th annual Memorial Game, with proceeds going to cancer research.
Game time at Holy Cross will be 8 p.m.