By: Kajan Thiruthanikasalam
SCARBOROUGH, ONT.- The last time that the Mohawk Mountaineers and the Centennial Colts faced off against each other was during the bronze medal game at the 24th Annual Men's Invitational at St. Lawrence College, in which Mohawk demolished Centennial, 95-69.
And for the better part of three quarters, Mohawk kept Centennial at bay, holding onto a double-digit lead. But this game was on the Colts' turf and the home side was not going to go down quietly.
In fact, they rose from the ashes.
Down by as many as 21, Centennial made an improbable comeback to force overtime and eventually dominated the extra frame to defeat Mohawk, 91-81, in front of a raucous crowd at the Athletic and Wellness Centre.
"The support from the fans was awesome. Our college and athletics department have been positive supporters on providing a safe place for our student athletes and fans," Trevor Challenger, Colts Head Coach said. "I think our fans will be surprised with this young group but it will take time."
"The atmosphere was amazing and the fans were great," Kyrin Henlin, Colts guard said.
The Colts outscored the Mountaineers, 42-18, in the fourth quarter and overtime combined to give them the loss that they took right back.
"You can't take possessions off," Isaiah Cromwell-Wright, Colts guard said. "Just have to go hard to the rim every time and expect to get hit… with no foul calls."
"It was all mental toughness, to be honest," Dieu Merci Betoukoumessou, Colts centre said. "We had to wake up in a sense in that second half."
"We thought our guys needed to do better executing on defensive rotations, so the coaching staff reminded them on their effort," Challenger said.
Four players scored in double figures for the Colts, led by Kyrin Henlin's game high 24 points on 13 attempted shots. Henlin and Isaiah Adeboboye led a Colts bench that outscored the Mountaineers bench, 50-19.
Adeboboye and Cromwell-Wright each dropped 15 for Centennial while Betoukoumessou finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds.
"The biggest thing for first year players is for them to absorb as much information as possible and to pay attention to detail," Challenger said. "They're going to make mistakes, which is normal; the question is how do they respond when adversity hits. I thought the young Colts played hard and were feisty down the stretch."
Veteran guard Ian Francis paced Centennial with five assists while Cromwell-Wright finished with a game high three steals.
"Both Francis and (Quinton) Paul are unselfish guards that thrive on defence," Challenger said. "Their efforts throughout the game was impressive."
Mohawk had five guys score in double figures, led by Emanuel Otong's 21 points, nine rebounds, and five assists; all of the stats were team highs. Cudjoe Masuka led the Mountaineers with three steals himself.
The Mountaineers played inspired basketball to start off the game as they went up 30-13 after one quarter and were up by as many as 21 in the first half before going into halftime, up 46-28. Otong and Milos Mladian led Mohawk with nine at the half while Henlin led Centennial with eight.
In the second half, Centennial began to slowly chip away at the huge deficit, outscoring Mohawk, 21-17 in the third quarter, but still found themselves trailing by 14 heading into the fourth quarter.
But everything changed in the final frame as the Colts, bolstered by the energy of the crowd, came roaring back to tie the game at 77 with 6.4 seconds left when Henlin contorted his way past two defenders mid-air for the layup.
"I was trying to do whatever it took and everything that I had to do to win the game," Henlin said, who scored 16 second half points.
Otong had a chance to win the game in regulation but his long range attempt misfired, sending the game into overtime.
The extra frame was all Centennial as they continued their momentum, outscoring the visitors, 14-4.
"Kill," Betoukoumessou said of the mentality the team had heading into overtime. "We fought too long to go to overtime and lose. We don't go out like that."
It was only fitting how the game ended when Cromwell-Wright went coast-to-coast after grabbing a rebound and going through the entire defense before dropping a no-look dime to a wide open Betoukoumessou at the rim for the layup, sending the entire place into a frenzy.
"I knew they were going to trap and foul me," Cromwell-Wright said. "Just trying to get the ball down there as quick as possible."
"That's what Isaiah does," Henlin said. "That's an Isaiah play."
"I'm surprised he didn't lose the ball," Betoukoumessou said about the entire sequence. "But once he got all the way down the court, I was like, 'Man did his thing; he's actually nice still.'"
"The last play was just a snippet of things to come," Challenger said.
As the regular season inches closer for the Colts, Challenger says that working out the kinks with this young team will take some time but will be worthwhile at the end.
"Offensively we're working on a few new sets and schemes to find mismatches so it may few weeks to work out the kinks," Challenger said. "Right now I think I want to see more consistency, effort and execution. But that will come with game experience."
CATCH OUR NEXT GAME
The Centennial Colts conclude their exhibition season this weekend as they head to Durham College to compete in the David Stewart Tip-Off Tournament. They open the regular season at home against the Fleming Knights on Friday Oct. 19 at 8:00pm.