By CLAUDE SCILLEY
It was one comeback too many to expect.
After delivering two overtime victories Saturday on the second day of the Ontario Cup midget basketball tournament, the Kingston Impact no rabbits left in the hat Sunday afternoon when it faced Toronto Basketball in the Division 2 championship game.
As a result, Toronto went home with the gold medals, after a 57-49 victory over the Impact in the Bartlett Gym at Queen’s University.
After turning a four-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter into a two point lead with about five and a half minutes to play, the Impact managed to score just one more basket—a desperate, off-balance one-handed three-pointer by Dylan Medeiros in the closing secnds—as the visitors cemented their title with a game-ending 14-4 run.
“At the end of the game, things kind of fell apart for us,” Impact coach Brett Walsh said. “We got away from the doing the things that were working well for us. We missed a couple of layups, a couple of gimmes.
“For a certain stretch we were attacking the rim fairly well. We were getting the ball inside and we were getting easy looks. In the fourth quarter we started taking longer, contested shots, trying to force tough plays, trying to make big shots happen for us that weren’t what we were talking about in our timeouts, weren’t part of our game plan.
“We got away from making the easy plays, which involves all five guys working as a unit. We started playing a little more individualistically, and in a team sport, that’s going to put you on the bottom.”
Kingston led 45-43 in the fourth quarter when Toronto’s Even Shudkami drove the lane for a layup that tied the game. A technical foul—for an inappropriate comment within earshot of a referee—while the Impact had possession of the ball in the front court, led to another Toronto point and a turnover on the subsequent Kingston possession was promptly turned into another basket. In a matter of seconds the Impact went from a two-point lead to being down three, and there was barely a murmur after that.
“That was kind of a turning point in the game, but I never like to chalk up a loss or a win to one play,” Walsh said. “You have to realize that every play that happens in a game is important. A play where we didn’t box out in the first quarter has the same effect on the scoreboard as a play at the end of the game.
“We weren’t playing with the right kind of energy all game that we needed to, and down the stretch (that meant) there was an opportunity to have a play like that let us fall behind.”
After a first-round upset of the tournament’s top seed, a triple-overtime win in their second game of the tournament—one that featured two buzzer-beating three-point shots in extra time—and another overtime win to complete an undefeated preliminary round, Walsh said his players were low on fuel.
“The energy well was pretty dry by the end of the weekend,” he said. “Everyone is really tired. You could see it in their faces. We played a lot of basketball this weekend and all the games were really close.
“Emotional fatigue leads to physical fatigue. It was a game that didn’t really have a whole lot of rhythm. They played a mixture of zone defences against us that we’ve struggled with all season and we couldn’t get into a good flow. We weren’t moving the ball the way we needed to. Credit to Toronto, they were taking away what we were trying to run with our offence, but at the same time we ran out of juice.”
Kingston led 28-24 at halftime and there were five lead changes in the third quarter, which ended with Toronto ahead 43-39.
Sam Pierson led Kingston with 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half, eight of them in the first quarter. Isaac Sanderson added 10 points and Reegan Comeau scored nine for the Impact.
Toronto, playing without two players who were ejected from the tournament after a bench-clearing brawl in a game Saturday, got 19 points from Kaheim Sullivan, 15 of them in the second half. Shudkami finished the game with 11 points.
“The fact that we got to play in a gold-medal game, that’s amazing for these guys,” Walsh said. It was a remarkable achievement for a team that was in Division 6 a year ago, and a group of boys, none of whom had ever played higher than Division 4.
“These guys need to be very proud of themselves,” Walsh said. “Second place in Division 2 means you’re 10th in the province. There are 78 other teams that finished below us. That’s the best that a Kingston team in this age group has ever done, by far.”
Walsh hopes the memories of the tournament, good and bad, will leave a lasting impression.
“These guys are going to play a lot more basketball in their high school careers,” he said. They’re going to take back what they learned from this and use it as leaders on their high school teams. That’s what I like to see, that Kingston basketball’s getting better. There’s an upswing going on right now, and you can see these kids coming into their own.
“You have to lose games like this to reach that point. You can’t just win every game. You don’t learn anything from that.”
In the minor midget tournament, Kingston claimed seventh place in Division 7 with a 79-51 win over the Welland Warriors Sunday morning in the Queen’s Bews Gym.
In preliminary play, the Impact dropped all three of its games in Division 7, 50-47 to the Mississauga Monarchs Friday night and then 60-33 and 45-42 to the Niagara Falls Red Raiders and Motion Basketball of Toronto, respectively, Saturday.
The London Ramblers captured the Division 7 title Sunday aftrernoon with a 66-61 double-overtime win over Niagara Falls.