By CLAUDE SCILLEY
You almost had to be there.
Otherwise, it’s likely difficult to understand how a senior boys high school basketball team could go into a semifinal game and score just seven two-point field goals—and still win it.
That’s what the Frontenac Falcons did Thursday afternoon in the Kingston Collegiate gym, where they not only defeated the Kingston Blues, but did so handily, pinning a 49-29 defeat on the league’s second-place team.
With the victory, the Falcons advance to the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association championship game Sunday afternoon at the Queen’s University Athletics and Recreation Centre, where they’ll face the Holy Cross Crusaders, 43-40 winners in Thursday’s other semifinal over the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers.
As well, both the Falcons and Crusaders, by virtue of their respective victories, have earned the right to advance into provincial playoffs. Frontenac will go to the eastern Ontario championship tournament next week in Brockville, while Holy Cross, by virtue of there being no other triple-A schools in EOSSAA, have direct entry to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship tournament next month in Windsor.
KC may yet still find itself at EOSSAA, as the Blues can present a strong bid for the single at-large berth in the six-team tournament.
If they do, the Blues will need to find an answer for Frontenac’s quick strike offence, which didn’t so much overwhelm KC Thursday, but rather inflicted its damage in short, sudden bursts.
Falcons coach Suche James, allowing that his team shot better in a 34-33 regular-season loss to KC, said it wasn’t so much the number of shots that his players hit—KC did, after all, render an inside game null and void—it was how the scores came in clusters.
“They’d claw back within 10, and we’d hit something,” he said. “It was the same in the first quarter, we’d hit some timely shots, but there’d be two in a row. We’d hit a three, and we’d get a steal (and score again), and we wouldn’t score for a while, but then we’d hit another three and get a steal again.
“It was that type of momentum that carried us through the game.”
The phenomenon was perhaps no better illustrated than in the third quarter. The Blues, down 28-11 at halftime, scored the first 10 points of the second half and Frontenac’s lead was down to seven points.
It was 31-21 when Frontenac’s Tristan Halladay went to the line. He made one of two shots, and Frontenac got the rebound of the second. Connor Vreeken promptly hit a jump shot from the corner, and then Halladay stole the subsequent in-bound pass and put it back into the basket.
In the matter of seven or eight seconds, the Falcons had restored the lead to 15 points and KC, essentially, drew its last breath then. The Blues called time out with 2:18 to play in the third quarter, and in the remaining 10 minutes of the game they scored eight points.
“They were 10 times better prepared to play this game than we were,” Blues coach Dave Nichols said. “Every single guy that played was more prepared to play than we were. Not trashing us. I’m just saying that was not the same team we played a month ago. They played with confidence at both ends, played with extreme confidence.
“They hit some crucial shots in the first half that gave them some separation. We had 11 points at halftime. That speaks for itself. It’s sad. We’re better than that, but not today we weren’t.”
Though Frontenac could muster very little in the way of an inside game, they were hot from three-point range, at least in the first half. The Falcons scored seven baskets from beyond the three-point arc in the first 16 minutes, but that game went cold in the third quarter.
Fortunately the visitors, the Blues were in some foul trouble, and the Falcons went to the free-throw line 16 times in the second half, making 10 of them. In addition to their tenacious defence, it’s that bounty that allowed Frontenac to stay comfortably on top, though the Falcons scored just one basket of any description in the fourth quarter.
“We wouldn’t score for a while,” James said, “but we kept getting stops. We scored in bunches and we got stops in bunches.
“It was one of those days for us. The basketball gods were good to us today, boy. Everything came together pretty well. KC’s a tough team. They beat some really good teams this year.”
Kyle Casford led Frontenac with 12 points, all but one of which came in the second quarter, most of them the proceeds of three three-point baskets. Jack Rowlatt, who hit a pair of threes, added eight points to the Falcons offence, while Kevin Toussaint scored all seven of his points in the first quarter.
It was Frontenac’s fifth win in a row, since dropping back-to-back games to Holy Cross and KC in the first week of January.
Sayre Powers led KC with nine points, including all six of the Blues’ points in the fourth quarter. The Blues again struggled mightily from the foul line, going 1-for-9 with the exception of Powers’ three made shots out of four.
“I give them kudos,” Nichols said. “They had a great game plan and they executed it. They neutralized our best player (Powers), and he’s a great player. I tip my hat to them.”
At Holy Cross, the Panthers put up a much better fight than they did in the annual Memorial game at Regi in January, where they were waxed 71-39.
This time, the Crusaders, who extended their season-long unbeaten streak to 11 games, were led by Sam Pierson, who scored 16 points, and Luciano Troiani, who scored a dozen. Eli Deluzio led all scorers in the losing cause, scoring 17 points for Regi.