By CLAUDE SCILLEY
From a spectator’s point of view, it was a terrific senior boys high school basketball game. There were athletic plays at both ends of the floor and scrappy rebounding in a contest where each team made enough mistakes to keep things interesting, while they both played well enough to prevent the other from pulling away.
While things like turnovers and shots that refuse to fall may make games appealing to fans, they are precisely the things that often make coaches blanch.
After the Kingston Blues escaped the Frontenac Secondary School gym Thursday afternoon with a 34-33 victory, KC coach Dave Nichols admitted he had difficulty splitting that hair.
“You know what? There were times when I was on the bench, thinking ‘I wish I was watching this,’” Nichols said. “It looked like it was exciting.
“That was a fun game to watch. I just wish I had a better seat.”
In this particular case, the coin that had ‘mistakes’ on one side had on its other side ‘tenacious defence.’ Each team played a fast-paced game that, at times, dumbfounded the other. Frontenac, for instance, scored on its first trip up the floor, then not again until 1:13 of the second quarter; KC mustered just 13 points in the entire second half.
The paucity of scoring came as a surprise to no one involved.
“We’re struggling offensively a bit and KC’s just too tough a team,” Frontenac coach Suche James said. “KC really defends hard. Today, we did, too. I totally expected a low scoring game, if we showed up to play tough.”
Indeed, Nichols said, the Falcons did.
“They’re amazing. They made us look really bad offensively,” he said. “We were complaining that we weren’t running our sets, but they were keeping us from running our sets. They did an excellent job.
“I thought we would be more successful, then I realized halfway through—it’s Frontenac. That’s what they do. They’ve got great coaching and they’ve got hard-nosed kids.”
KC led 10-2 after the first quarter, and the Blues’ lead fluctuated between three and six points for most of the second. A three-point basket by Frontenac’s Brennan Laidman at the buzzer made the score 21-17 at halftime.
The Falcons never caught KC, though the lead was cut to two points, 30-28, midway through the final quarter. A pair of free throws by Sayre Powers restored the KC lead to four points but a three-point basket by Kyle Casford, with just over two minutes to play, drew Frontenac within a point at 32-31.
The teams traded baskets, with Casford scoring again with 1:17 to play, but that was the end of the scoring. Frontenac fouled twice after that, and KC missed the front end of a bonus free-throwing situation each time. In between, the Falcons missed a three-point basket.
Hard pressed to rebound throughout the game, the Falcons nonetheless got the rebound after each failed KC free throw. Frontenac had the ball and called time out with 22 seconds left, worked the ball for one shot, and Casford missed a layup in the dying seconds.
James, whose team suffered its first defeat of the year Tuesday—an uninspired nine-point loss at Holy Cross—said Tuesday’s outcome wasn’t important.
“I said at halftime, whether we lose or win this game, we’re going to be happy with our guys,” he said. “It was a team-first effort. They played tough, tougher than we did Tuesday.”
Powers led KC with 12 points. He scored eight of his team’s first dozen but faced rougher sledding after that.
“Sayre is a kid that’s tough to deal with because of his strength,” James said. “He’s really the first guard that we’ve played with that type of strength so it took us a while to acclimate to him. We switched matchups. We put maybe not as quick a guy but a stronger guy (to guard him), and that helped.”
Frontenac had a terrible time from three-point range, with just three of the long shots scoring from among probably 30 attempts. James said he believes his team has the potential to be better, offensively.
“It’s something we’ve got to focus on in practice,” he said. “We had a lot of open looks today that we just didn’t knock down. At the end of the day, I think we have a lot of upside to that part of our game.”
Brendan Steele led Frontenac with 10 points, seven of them in the second half. Laidman came off the bench to score nine, all of them in the second quarter.
Isaac Foley scored nine points for KC, including five of the Blues’ 13 points in the second half.
Neither team took advantage of its foul-shooting opportunities, collectively successful just 11 times in 31 attempts.
KC was 5-for-16, but while Powers was 4-for-4, the other Blues were a measly 1-for-12, including 0-for-4 while shooting in bonus situations.
The victory was the league-leading Blues’ fifth without defeat this year. By losing its second game in three days, Frontenac fell to 4-2 and into a third-place tie with the Sydenham Golden Eagles, who won their third game in a row Thursday, 62-52 at home over the Napanee Golden Hawks.
Elsewhere in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association, both the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers and Holy Cross Crusaders remained undefeated. Holy Cross, 4-0, defeated the Granite Ridge Gryphons 41-8 while Regi, 3-0, outdistanced the visiting Queen Elizabeth Raiders, 72-62.
The final senior boys basketball game between the two north end rivals was, as expected, a scrappy affair, Panthers coach Ed Kenney wrote in an email. “Both teams came out quickly with end-to-end offensive action and numerous transition baskets.”
Regi put the game away in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points from the foul line alone.
Regi led by four points at the break and then executed more efficiently after that, Kenney wrote. Eli Deluzio and Dylan Medeiros scored 17 points apiece for the Panthers, while Tyler Bark led all scorers in the losing cause, with 20 points for QE. John MacDonald added 15 points to the attack for the Raiders, who fell to 2-3.