By CLAUDE SCILLEY
It didn’t seem like much at the time. A free throw here, a free throw there. Never did the Scarborough Blues so much as hit two foul shots at a time.
Slowly, however, the snowball began to build, and by the time it finished rolling, there was the Kingston Impact, at the bottom of the hill, buried under a 21-4 fourth-quarter avalanche, 66-58 losers in the opening round of the Juel of Ontario girls basketball championship tournament in the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre.
The defeat sends the Impact to a 9 a.m. game Saturday against the North Toronto Huskies, needing a victory to stay alive in the three-day, 14-team competition.
The fourth quarter was unlike the first three in several respects. A game that was relatively low scoring suddenly became a run-and-gun affair; a match that had been close throughout, with the teams taking turns with the lead, neither side by more than three points for very long, became a game of streaks.
Kingston, leading by two points, 38-36, with about three minutes left in the third quarter, went on a 9-2 run into the early part of the fourth. A three-point basket by Rebecca Wendland with 7:45 to play in the game put the Impact into a 10-point lead at 50-40.
Then the Blues started to pick away. As if peeling a scab, over the next two and a half minutes, bit by bit the visitors climbed to within four points, then a three-point basket by Liana Villegas brought them within a point at 52-51. With four and a half minutes to go the Blues got a basket from Chelayne Bailey that put them in front, and they never trailed again.
Scarborough scored 10 points in a row in one stretch of what ultimately became a 21-4 run. The Blues led by five points with a minute to play, and Kingston’s Bridget Mulholland but it to three when she hit a pair of free throws with 22.3 seconds on the clock, but Scarborough closed it out by hitting five of six foul shots after that.
In a game where they would score just 38 points in the first 32 minutes, the Blues scored 28 in the last eight.
“We’re still learning how to close games out,” Impact coach Paul Coulter said. “Unfortunately we did not handle a change of pace; they threw pressure at us and we didn’t respond.
“Our youth showed,” continued Coulter, who has just five second-year players, only four of them in Grade 12, in a league where the majority of teams are top heavy in seniors. “They threw a little wrinkle at us and everything got tighter. Unfortunately that one wrinkle—it didn’t catch us off guard, we knew it was coming—got us out of our comfort zone and we started to struggle.”
No question. As calmly as the Impact built its 10-point lead, they appeared flustered as it was melting away. Turnovers off the press might have gotten the Blues back in the game, but what prevented the Impact from stopping the snowball were rushed shots, poor passing and turnovers in the front court.
“When they went on that bit of a lead all of a sudden we got very tense and as you know … everything, when you feel under duress, gets harder,” Coulter said.
Danielle Garven led Scarborough with 13 points, scoring six of them in the fourth quarter. Bailey finished with 11 points—seven in the fourth quarter—and Nada Radonjic scored six of her 10 points in the final period.
Mulholland led all scorers with 15 points for Kingston, while Wendland scored 13—nine of them from three three-point baskets—and Anne Wagar scored 11.
“I’ve had a tendency in the past maybe to let our starters play a little too much, to where they don’t have gas in the tank (at the end),” Coulter said. “That wasn’t the case today. We had good minutes from our bench. I’m very proud of our team; I’m very proud of each individual, who did great things today.
“I’m incredibly happy with what they were able to do—for most of the game.”
Kingston lost both of its games in the regular year to North Toronto, one a blowout and the other an overtime defeat.
“We’re not out of this thing,” Coulter said. “We know we can play with them. We’ll regroup and we’ll have a good game tomorrow.”
• In Juel Prep division, Kingston dropped its opening game, 53-46 to the Oakville Venom. The Impact will resume play Saturday at 1 p.m. in the main gym at Queen's against the London Ramblers.