By CLAUDE SCILLEY
There’s a reasonably straightforward reason, Barry Smith figures, why his team played its best basketball of the game Saturday afternoon in overtime.
“The guys felt that we had pissed the game away,” the coach of the St. Lawrence Vikings said, after his team scored 15 straight points in the five-minute extra period to claim an 85-73 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association victory over the Seneca Sting in the St. Lawrence gym.
On more than one occasion Saturday, the Vikings appeared to have done just that. They frittered away an early 10-point lead; when they regained the lead in the third quarter they couldn’t grow it past three points, and a three-point lead with 11.2 seconds left in the game evaporated when Joshua Yorke-Frazer hit a three-point basket from the corner with eight-tenths of a second on the clock.
Smith was not amused, especially as that very eventually had been discussed in a timeout not 10 seconds earlier.
“We had three-point lead,” Smith said, “and we said in the timeout, we don’t care if they get a layup. We don’t care. It doesn’t make any difference. (Even if they made it), we’d call time out and we’d get the ball at half court with a one-point lead. Then they’d have to foul us and see if we could make our free throws.
“What happens? Our player lets them have a wide-open three from the corner. That’s just bad basketball.
With less than a second to get off a last-gasp shot, and the ball out of bounds in the front court, the Vikings’ inbounds pass was intercepted, forcing overtime.
“When we talked about overtime, they were still talking about our inbounds play,” Smith said. “I said, ‘Guys, you cannot change the past. Focus and move on. We’ve got to play for five minutes and see what happens.’
“We got some things going.”
Indeed, after spotting Seneca a three-point play to open the five-minute extra period, the Vikings got down to business. They gave up precious few uncontested looks—Seneca was 1-for-7 from the field in overtime—they rebounded well under their defensive glass and they scored: 15 unanswered points, with Jaz Bains getting 12 of them.
It was the crowning performance in a season-best 37-point afternoon for the Vikings guard, and the third time this season Bains has surpassed 30 points in a game. He also had six assists and seven steals.
It was the sixth win in the last seven games for the Vikings, who, at 11-5, share first place in the East division with Algonquin, which lost 81-70 at Centennial Saturday afternoon. Close behind with two games in hand is La Cite, at 10-4, while George Brown lurks just half a game back at 10-5.
In the middle part of the first half, Seneca, 8-7, threatened to run the Vikings out of their own gym. Though the Sting trailed 14-4 at one point, the visitors ended the first quarter with a 16-3 run and, after the Vikings scored the first basket of the second quarter, Seneca then reeled off nine straight points to take a 10-point lead.
St. Lawrence was living high off the three-point shot in the early going—21 of their first 30 points coming on shots from beyond the arc—but the Vikings couldn’t sustain that pace.
“We came out and we were hotter than pistols,” Smith said, “but you know what? Threes dry up, and they dried up for us, but we kept shooting them.”
The aspect most vexing to Smith was his team’s inability—or unwillingness—to establish an inside game.
“What did (Don) Gibson have at halftime?” Smith asked rhetorically of his big man. “I can tell you. He had zero.
“If the other team is going to play a team of guards, which is basically what (Seneca is), guards and wing men—they don’t have a true post man—you have to take advantage of that. We didn’t take advantage of it. In the third quarter, we made more of a commitment to it.”
Gibson scored six points in the third quarter, eight in the fourth—including seven of nine at one point, as St. Lawrence went from down one to up three in the second half of the period—and he finished the game with 15 points. He also had a game-best 11 rebounds.
In overtime, St. Lawrence attempted just one three-point shot.
“For some reason, guards hate to give it to the big men,” Smith said. “I don’t know why; they just do. To be a successful ball team you have to have inside scoring to go along with your perimeter scoring. That’s the only way you can be successful.
“When the ball goes in, what’s the first thing everybody does? They take a little peek to see where the ball is. If I’m watching you and I take a little peek, if you make a cut, you’re going to get a wide-open shot or a layup, but if you don’t go inside, you can’t be successful that way.”
Andrew Dawkins finished the game with 18 points for St. Lawrence, which avenged a five-point loss to the Sting in late November at Toronto.
Yusef Ali had 17 points for Seneca, while Yorke-Frazer ended the game with 15 and Devante Nunes came off the bench to score 11.
“We never seem to win pretty,” Smith lamented. “I don’t know what it is. Even when we win big, we seem to win ugly.”
The Vikings resume play Wednesday when they host Loyalist at 8 p.m.
The St. Lawrence women won their third straight game since returning from the Christmas break Saturday afternoon, 71-57 over Seneca. It was the second game in a row that the Vikings, 5-5, have defeated a team placed higher in the standings.
Seneca, playing its second game in less than 24 hours, fell to 6-5.
“In each game, the girls look more and more comfortable on the floor,” Vikings coach Remy Simpson said, in a release. “Now that we’ve reached the second half of the season, it’s starting to come together and produce important victories for us.”
Taking advantage of seven Seneca turnovers, St. Lawrence raced to a 30-15 lead, with 15 of the Vikings’ first 30 points coming from beyond the three-point line. St. Lawrence led by 17 points at halftime and 20 going into the fourth quarter, allowing the Vikings to withstand a moderate Seneca comeback bid.
Shian Noble and Jackie Rodgerson scored 13 points apiece to lead St. Lawrence, with Rodgerson adding five assists and four steals.
The Vikings will bid for their third straight upset victory Wednesday, when they will host third-place Loyalist at 6 p.m.