By CLAUDE SCILLEY
For the Holy Cross Crusaders, this season will be all about the mismatch.
Wednesday, in the only Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior boys basketball game of the day, the mismatch was clearly in their favour, as the Crusaders defeated the Queen Elizabeth Raiders 67-44.
The Raiders simply could not cope with the size advantage presented by Holy Cross, which broke open a close game with a 16-3 second quarter in which QE wasn’t able to score a single basket.
As for the rest of the season, however, Crusaders coach Alf DeMelo isn’t jumping to any conclusions. His collection of big men—he’s got half a dozen at 6-foot-2 or better—is the antithesis of the other top teams in the county, who largely rely on quickness and deception to be successful.
He’s eager to see how the season evolves.
“It’s a very guard-oriented league,” Melo said, “and we could have some mismatch problems.
“Just because you have size doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to use it (to your advantage) every night. I thought we did a really good job using it today. We didn’t give them many second chances, and that makes a big difference … but it works both ways. We’ll see how it goes. So far, we’ve been pretty good.”
Wednesday’s game was scoreless for the first two minutes, and then it turned into a run-and-gun affair as the teams combined for 35 points in the remainder of the first quarter. Holy Cross led 11-10 when the Crusaders slowly started pulling away, eventually taking the score to 36-18 at halftime.
They did so by dominating all aspects of the game in the offensive end of the court. Not only did QE not have an answer for the Crusaders’ height inside, neither did forcing Holy Cross to shoot from outside help, since the Raiders weren’t able to rebound the misses.
“That made a big difference tonight,” DeMelo said. “Offensive rebounding is a huge thing. We’ve never had that; this year finally we’ve finally got some production off the offensive boards.”
Raiders coach Kirsti Siltanen conceded there wasn’t much her team could do to compensate for the size disadvantage.
“Sometimes a really good offensive player is still going to score, even though the defence is real tough on him,” she said. “As hard as some of our taller guys were battling, you can’t get a rebound off them.”
It was a common lament, Joanne Belfer, another of QE’s coaches, said, recalling an exchange she had with one of her frustrated players. “He says, ‘I’m even fouling him, and he’s still scoring.’”
Holy Cross has played just two conference games, and though the Crusaders have won them both, DeMelo still wonders where his team fits in the grander scheme.
“I think we’re still behind a couple of teams,” he said. “KC is the front-runner and I still think Frontenac is in front of us right now, just because of their guard play, the up-tempo game they’ll play for 32 minutes.”
Holy Cross will host Frontenac in its first game when play resumes in January.
“That’s the game we’re looking forward to,” DeMelo said. “It’s always an intense game when we play them. We’ll see which one prevails—size or guard strength.”
Another pivotal game will be played Jan. 5, when QE hosts Granite Ridge in a clash of KASSAA’s two single-A schools. At stake will be the county’s berth in the Eastern Ontario tournament in February. The Raiders, 1-2, have a leg up in that quest, having defeated La Salle on Tuesday, but a victory in that game by Granite Ridge would move the Gryphons into a tie, and give them the advantage in any eventual tie-breaking scenario with QE.
That’s why, Belfer said, the Raiders can benefit from being defeated, even in a game where the demographics are stacked against them.
“When you look at the difference in populations of our schools, it’s difficult,” she said. “It’s hard for a school of 250 to play against a school of 1,200, (but) we’re hoping to be the single-A representative for EOSSAA. These games are really good practice for us, to play against tough teams and learn from them, and see what we need to get better at. Then, if we get to the next level, we’ll have learned from playing against tougher teams, and, hopefully, that will benefit us.”
Luciano Troiani led a balanced Holy Cross attack with 13 points. Tanner Hawley added 11, as six different Crusaders scored at least seven points. For QE, which managed just eight two-point field goals in the game—only six of them after the first quarter—Tyler Bark scored 13 points and John MacDonald added 10.