By CLAUDE SCILLEY
As he left the Kingston Collegiate gym Tuesday afternoon, Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers coach Ed Kenney paused by the soda machine in the corridor, but he didn’t find what he was looking for.
“Something to take the taste out of my mouth,” he said, with a wry smile.
The Panthers didn’t play that badly in their 48-37 loss to the Kingston Blues, Regi’s first defeat of the senior boys high school basketball season, but they certainly played nowhere near well enough to defeat the league-leading Blues, who won their sixth game in a row.
“We didn’t play well,” Kenney said. “When you play OK and a good team plays well, that’s what happens.”
Each team had peaks and valleys in a game that generally was characterized by some positively dreadful basketball that didn’t seem to befit two undefeated teams. KC led 15-9 after the first quarter and the game was tied 22-22 at halftime. As possession after possession ended with a travel or a throw out of bounds, it almost appeared as if neither team was capable of winning the game.
KC came out of the gate strong to start the second half, however, and took an 11-point lead late in the third quarter. A three-point basket by Nick Savoie in the dying moments lifted the Panthers, who had scored just two points to that point in the period, to within eight points, trailing 35-27 going into the final period.
That’s where the lead more or less stayed for the next four and a half minutes, until a three-point basket by Seger Vanaver put the Blues up 44-31. The game was pretty nondescript after that.
The biggest part of the KC collapse in the first half could be traced to the absence of Sayre Powers. The Blues led by 10 points when he hit the bench after receiving his third foul just five minutes into the game. He didn’t come back until the start of the second half.
“The kids lose just a little bit when he goes off the court,” Blues coach Dave Nichols said. “It has nothing to do with being the leading scorer; he just provides a certain kind of oomph.”
Without Powers, the Blues at times appeared utterly disorganized. The vast majority of their points came off turnovers and transition, with very little coming from set plays.
“That’s how we play,” Nichols said. “Let’s be realistic. Frontenac, Regi—all these teams are tough; they’re all hard-nosed. Nobody’s going to roll over and die. You get a big lead in the first quarter and you feel good, and you turn around and it’s tied at half.
“So far, that’s KASSAA. There’s no doubt that we struggled. They broke us down defensively in the second quarter. I was really happy when the kids picked it up in the second half.”
KC was led by Robert Cadman, an elite rower who played what Nichols called the best game he’s ever seen him play. Cadman rebounded well, blocked at least four shots and scored a team-high 13 points.
Perhaps the pivotal point in the ball game came in the middle of the third quarter, when Cadman, after scoring back-to-back baskets to turn a five-point game into a nine-point KC lead, blocked a shot at the other end of the floor, a play that sent the Blues back up the floor for a basket that gave KC a double-digit lead.
“He was happy and he knew that he was on a roll,” Nichols said. “He was the defender under the basket and his defence was outstanding today. He allowed us to pressure up on the wings.
“He’s a kid that works hard every day. We don’t have to get a lot out of him offensively, but being as big as he is, he’s going to get the ball near the basket and when he does what he’s supposed to do, he should get five baskets a game. He’s that tall.”
Kenney said he was pleased with his team’s performance in the first half, particularly with the second-quarter comeback after being stuck at three points until late in the first quarter. “Part of that was they had some foul trouble, but we forced them to foul us because we were aggressive,” he said.
“We knew we were going to go down early. I mean, the gym at KCVI is not a fun place to play. In the second half, I thought the difference was whoever had the ball was aggressive. Because we didn’t pay as a team, the kids from KCVI were able to focus on the ball. We got blocked a lot in the second half and it was largely because if we were able to get by one guy, the KCVI kids slumped down in the key and took that guy away and we didn’t share the ball.
“We played well in the last three minutes when we figured it out, but that seemed to be a bit of a stumbling block: Seventeen-year-old boys in a very difficult place to play and it took us too long to figure it out.”
Reilly Lacasandile and Vanaver each scored nine points for KC, which won despite getting just two points from Powers and only four from Isaac Foley. Liam Huntley led all scorers in the losing cause, scoring 14 points for Regi.
Elsewhere in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association, the Holy Cross Crusaders got 17 points from Luciano Troiani as they defeated the La Salle Black Knights 48-32, and the game between the Napanee Golden Hawks and Queen Elizabeth Raiders was postponed due to the storm and rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Tuesday’s win was the fifth without defeat for Holy Cross, which took sole possession of second place in the league standings. For the winless Knights, the loss was the sixth in a row.
Play resumes Thursday with three games, among them the annual Memorial game in support of cancer research between Regi and Holy Cross. This year’s contest will be played at 7 p.m. at Regi.