By: Teru Ikeda and Kajan Thiruthanikasalam
SCARBOROUGH, ONT.- After a winless preseason for the Centennial Colts, they were coming in tough against the Seneca Sting, who were coming off a 77-38 win in their home opener against the Georgian Grizzlies.
For the better part of three quarters, it looked like Centennial was the dominant team as everything went right for them, whether it was making free throws, triples, or grabbing defensive rebounds.
But from the second half of the third quarter onwards, Seneca's experience prevailed and it led to a disheartening result for the hosts.
The Sting (2-0) were down 18 points in the third quarter, but came back to defeat the Colts (0-1), 66-64, in a packed Athletic and Wellness Centre.
"For our players, they need to start to believe that they've got that ability," Justin Bobb, Colts Head Coach said. "When you go up big on a ranked team like Seneca, you have to have the belief that you deserve to win the game. For a young team, that's something they have to learn."
Four players scored in double figures for Centennial, with Cori Browne and Judy Ta each leading the team with 12 points. Browne also had a game high seven assists, while Ta's floor spacing (three made triples) were critical to the Colts' offense.
"Lauren rebounded the ball well and was aggressive getting to the rim (while) MaryAnn gives you 100 per cent effort at all times," Bobb said of his rookies. "I'm really proud of their development so far and credit to them for putting in the work and it's showing off in game mode."
Meanwhile, for Seneca, four players also scored in double figures, led by Chelsea Ramsay's 21 points off of the bench as her offense kept her team in it in the first half.
Brianna-mae Clough had 12 points, a game-high eight rebounds, and the game-winning putback with 9.8 seconds to go in the game. Danielle Belcher had 12 while Taylor Allicock chipped in with 11.
There were a ton of moving parts throughout this game, so here is the break down.
You would think that Seneca would run out of the gates strong, coming off of their resounding win in their season opener combined with Centennial's struggles in the preseason. That was not the case at all.
The Colts jumped all over the visitors early as Ta, returning since tearing her meniscus over the offseason, scored nine points on three triples in the first quarter, including consecutive triples to start off the game.
"I thought Judy brought a lot of us as an outside shooter," Bobb said. "She gives us the ability to get into some different actions on offence and space the floor a little bit. Her teammates have the belief in her to be an impact player in this league."
Seneca shot a paltry 9.5 per cent from the field (2-21) as they were down 18-6 after one quarter.
Ramsay scored 11 in the second quarter to keep her team in the game, cutting the lead down to 28-22. Centennial, however, answered by going on a 10-2 run to close out the half. The Colts were up 38-24 at halftime. Maryem Serradilla-Sonmez led a balanced Colts effort in that quarter with six points.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair. Centennial scored the first four points to take their largest lead of the game, but Seneca then scored eight unanswered points to cut the lead to 10.
Barker had seven points in the third, making five of six at the charity stripe, as the Colts inched their lead up to 15 (53-38). But the Sting, behind Clough's seven points and four rebounds, scored the last eight points of the quarter to head into the final frame, only down 53-46.
Tiffany McNeil and Belcher each hit a layup at the start of the fourth quarter to extend Seneca's run to 12 straight points. Colts guard Blake put a halt to the Sting's streak but consecutive triples from Allicock and a layup from Ramsay gave the Sting their first and largest lead of the game at 58-55.
A pair of layups from Blake and a free throw from Olivia Thomson gave Centennial a two point lead, but baskets from Clough and Belcher had Seneca retake the lead. Neither team scored for over a minute, which led to an exciting final 90 seconds.
THE FINAL 90 SECONDS
Though solid at the line for much the game, Ramsay shockingly missed a pair of free throws, giving Centennial a chance to tie. On that sequence, Browne missed a jump shot, but Blake grabbed the offensive rebound over everyone and hit the layup, tying the game at 62 with 1:25 left.
Colts head coach Justin Bobb called for a timeout with a minute to go as Seneca failed to convert on their possession and promptly took a page out of Dwane Casey's playbook. Browne faked the handoff to Ta, fooling every Sting player on the floor and drove in for the easy left-handed layup to give Centennial a 64-62 lead.
"I trusted that running the shooter off of her would give her (Cori) the opportunity to get a mismatch and slip the double," Bobb said. "She executed it flawlessly and it's something we've never done before in live action."
Seconds later, however, Belcher hit a layup to tie the game at 64. After Centennial failed to convert for the go-ahead bucket on their offensive possession, Seneca now had a chance to win the game.
They took four shot attempts and grabbed three offensive rebounds, but Clough leaped over Barker and banked in the hook shot with 9.8 seconds left, giving Seneca a two-point lead.
Blake was forced to hoist a desperate corner triple for the win but it was blocked as the final buzzer sounded.
"We tried to do a misdirection but we picked up our dribble and that caused us to be in scramble mode," Bobb said of the final play. "When you're a young team and you haven't played through these types of situations, it's tough."
Despite not getting the result they had hoped for, this game was encouraging for the young Colts as they look to learn from their mistakes in their next game.
"We have the talent to compete in this league. The question is whether we can sustain it for 40 minutes," Bobb said. "I loved our effort and the way we stuck together as a team. Of course, the outcome isn't what I was looking for but credit to Seneca for making some big shots down the stretch."
NOTABLE GAME STATS
Both teams shot poorly when this game was all said and done; Seneca shot 35.7 per cent while Centennial shot 37.5 per cent overall. Despite an 18-12 edge at the free throw line and in bench points (25-24), the Colts made four less field goals (25-21) and were beat soundly, 40-16, in points in the paint.
"In the second half, we gave them a lot of opportunities to get into the middle of our defence," Bobb said of the disparity inside. "And if you give a team with that much talent like Seneca has opportunities at the rim, they're going to convert."
Browne had a 0.7 assist-to-turnover ratio (seven assists to 10 turnovers). Notable for Centennial was that they made 14 free throws in a row between the second and third quarters; Barker made seven out of 10 free throws overall.
TOP 3 COLTS PERFORMERS OF THE GAME
Cori Browne (12 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds)
Lauren Barker (11 points, 7/10 FT)
MaryAnn Blake (10 points, 5 rebounds)
NBYMP CANADA MAKES AN APPEARANCE (GIRLS)
Girls from the National Basketball Youth Mentorship Program (NBYMP) came out to play at halftime. They fought hard and enjoyed themselves in front of a cheering crowd and great music!
The link to the NBYMP halftime game is as follows: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmsv3KEk
CATCH OUR NEXT GAME
The Centennial Colts look to get into the win column as they head to Oshawa, Ont., to face off against the Durham Lords on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6:00pm.