By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Some wondered how the guards of the Holy Cross Crusaders would deal with the up-tempo game they would surely face Tuesday against the undefeated Frontenac Falcons.
Turns out, they did just fine.
“Our guards did a really good job of bringing the ball up the floor, making good decisions,” Crusaders coach Alf DeMelo said, after his team handed Frontenac its first defeat of the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior boys basketball season in the Joe Duffey Gym.
“They got fatigued toward the end, and that’s when the turnovers started happening, but they had a good game, controlling the tempo.”
Frontenac, a team that typically runs rings around opponents—and, indeed, had to do so on this day to be successful in the face of a severe height disadvantage—applied full-court pressure from the start but it was to no avail. It generated very few turnovers and beyond the first basket of the game, the Falcons never held the lead.
A two-point game at the end of the first quarter became one that Holy Cross led 23-16 at halftime. An 11-4 run to start the second half put the Crusaders in command. Though the home team stumbled near the end of the third quarter amid a spate of poor shooting and front-court turnovers, the Falcons weren’t shooting well enough to get back into the game. Their deficit shrank to as little as seven points at 43-36 with about four minutes to play, but a three-point basket by Clay Taylor, his second of the fourth quarter, with about two minutes left in the game sealed the victory for Holy Cross.
Falcons coach Suche James was succinct in his analysis of the game, the first one in five conference contests that his team has lost this season.
“They showed up to play a senior boys basketball game as hard as they could, and we didn’t,” James said. “It isn’t any more complicated than that. At the end of the day, they played harder than we played—end of story.
“We weren’t focused enough; they were. We didn’t rebound well enough; they did. You can’t beat a good basketball club showing up the way we showed up.”
Frontenac scored just nine two-point baskets in the game, as Holy Cross dominated play under the glass at both ends of the floor. The Falcons didn’t shoot well enough from outside to draw the Crusaders out, and they didn’t rebound well enough to get any second chances when they missed.
“For whatever reason, we were slow to things,” James said. “We were slow physically; they were getting to guys on the perimeter, and we were slow mentally, getting to places, where we weren’t slow prior to the Christmas break.”
James was having none of the suggestion that his team was feeling the effects of the two-week Christmas break.
“Maybe,” he said, “but it was their first game back, too.”
DeMelo feared the break might have a bigger impact on his team, knowing as he did that he would have to substitute freely to keep his players fresh enough to cope with Frontenac’s frenetic pace.
“We’re probably nine deep right now,” he said. “We could go a little deeper but I didn’t want to get so deep so we would lose rhythm.
“Braydon Norris coming back makes us much deeper.”
Norris, a third-year starter, wasn’t with the Crusaders before Christmas, as he was in a program that involved him taking classes at St. Lawrence College, mostly in the late afternoon when the team practised and played.
“He’s literally been with us for maybe three practices, and he’s a big part of our team,” DeMelo said.
Norris scored seven points in his KASSAA-season debut, all of them in the second half of a game where he would be 5-for-7 from the free-throw line.
Justin LaFrance and Sam Pierson scored 11 points apiece for Holy Cross, which improved to 3-0.
Frontenac played most of the second half without veteran guard Tristan Halladay, who was confined to the bench for what James said was some poor decision making. Connor Vreeken led all scorers in the losing cause, scoring 12 points, eight of them in the fourth quarter, most of those from a pair of three-point baskets.
“They’re young,” DeMelo said of the Falcons, “but I have a feeling we’re going to see them again (in the playoffs). Hopefully, we can take care of the games we should win and have home court for the playoffs, instead of having to travel like we have the last couple of years.”
Elsewhere Tuesday, the Sydenham Golden Eagles moved a game above .500 with a 46-38 win over the winless Black Knights at La Salle, and in a match of the league’s two single-A teams, the Queen Elizabeth Raiders beat the Granite Ridge Gryphons 75-17.
In the game at QE, the Raiders, 2-2, put themselves into a strong position to claim KASSAA’s berth in the single-A eastern Ontario tournament next month. They were able to do so despite a 12-point performance by Granite Ridge’s Kyle Commodore.