By: Kajan Thiruthanikasalam
OSHAWA, ONT.- After a major statement made to not only the OCAA, but to the CCAA in their win over the defending national champions Seneca Sting last Thursday, a letdown was a possibility for the Centennial Colts heading into their road matchup against the Durham Lords.
There were some uneven moments during the game. But when it mattered, the young Colts got the job done.
An offensive explosion in the fourth quarter proved to be the deciding factor as Centennial (3-0) defeated Durham (1-2), 81-75, at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre.
"I thought the guys played well in the first few minutes of the game. They were executing on offence and playing stellar defence," Trevor Challenger, Colts Head Coach said. "It's early in the season so it's tough to get a young team to play consistently for the whole game."
Isaiah Cromwell-Wright, after a subpar first half, lit up the scoreboard with 25 of his team high 27 points in the second half, including 14 fourth quarter points.
"Cromwell Wright is (an) exciting player that can fill up the score sheet," Challenger said. "I told him in the fourth that I needed him to stay confident and aggressive."
Quentin Herbert started off strong and finished with 16 points and a game high five steals as his floor spacing opened up driving lanes for his teammates.
"Herbert has been working on his jumper and fine tuning his release," Challenger said. "We're very pleased with his thus far (but) we are challenging him to become a better rebounder and defender."
Brandon Halliburton dropped a game high 32 points for the Lords while Julian Hinckson Jr., had 16 points and 11 rebounds in the loss.
"Brandon is a tough competitor and one the premier shooting guards in the OCAA," Challenger said, noting that Halliburton had 29 shot attempts. "We did the best job possible to slow him down and make his shot attempts difficult."
Durham had the edge in points in the paint (32-28), shot better from the field (39.7 per cent to 37.5 per cent), had more bench scoring (21-7) and outrebounded Centennial by eight (44-36) yet could not pull out the win.
The key categories that decided this game were from the free throw line and the turnover battle. Centennial shot 80.8 per cent from the charity stripe and outscored Durham, 21-12, from that area.
Turnovers were a major point of emphasis heading into this game after struggling with taking care of the rock against Seneca. The Colts only committed six the entire game while forcing Durham into 20 turnovers, leading to 27 fastbreak points.
"Coaches Ben (Sanders) and Chris (Stewart) pointed out the turnovers in film session so that guys can see their mistakes," Challenger stated. "Most of the turnovers in the Seneca game was because we were impatient and not cutting to open areas. I thought the guys did a better job reading the situation during the Durham game and to not force the issue."
The Colts could not have gotten off to a better start as they scored the first nine points of the game and held a 17-4 lead on a layup from Carlo Pantaleon with 3:25 to go in the first quarter.
But due to early foul trouble, Centennial's momentum slowed down considerably. Durham took advantage, closing the quarter out on a 15-2 run, capped off by Halliburton's floater as both teams were tied at 19 after one.
"We have to do a better job in defensive rotations and being patient," a frustrated Challenger said. "We're picking up cheap fouls because we're out of position and gambling."
The Lords then continued their momentum from the first quarter to start off the second, scoring the first six points to extend their run to 21-2 before a pair of free throws from Henlin put an end to that.
Both teams then played neck-and-neck the rest of the first half and a triple from Halliburton, who had 17 first half points, put the Lords up five (35-30) heading into intermission. Adeboboye had six in the quarter for the Colts.
Although the Colts could not get over the hump in the third quarter in terms of taking the lead, their offense showed signs of life as they scored 23 points in the quarter.
Cromwell-Wright was especially aggressive, scoring 11 in the frame, which included six at the free throw line. Henlin had seven of his own in the quarter as Centennial headed into the final stanza only down by two (55-53) on the strength of a 6-0 run.
A triple from Cromwell-Wright with nine minutes to go in the game gave Centennial a 59-57 lead, their first since late in the first quarter. Durham, however, responded and held a 68-67 lead with 4:50 to go after a layup from the Lords' Craig Hanson.
But Adeboboye responded with a layup and Cromwell-Wright converted on a momentum changing three point play to give the visitors a lead in which they would not relinquish.
And although the Lords cut it to within two late, a jumper from Cromwell-Wright and the Colts making six of their last eight free throw attempts sealed the victory for the road team.
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE FIRST THREE GAMES OF THE SEASON
It has been an eventful two weeks to begin the season thus far as they are currently tied for first in the OCAA East with a 3-0 record with the George Brown Huskies. Challenger, however, says that the best is yet to come for Centennial.
"We're starting to realize as a team that if we bring energy, toughness and execute the game plan, we can contend with any team," Challenger said. "I think we're still not playing our best basketball yet."
For a team that's ranked fourth and 14th in the OCAA and CCAA rankings, respectively, a young Colts team that reaches its full potential would be a scary sight.
TOP 3 COLTS PERFORMERS OF THE GAME
Isaiah Cromwell Wright: 27 points, 4 assists (11/11 FT)
Kyrin Henlin: 13 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Quentin Herbert: 16 points, 5 steals
CATCH OUR NEXT GAME
Centennial has nine days off before heading to Barrie, Ont., to face off against the Georgian Grizzlies on Thursday Nov. 8, with tip-off at 8:00pm.