Video By: Leo Solorsano
Article By: Kajan Thiruthanikasalam
SCARBOROUGH, ONT. - It was a rollercoaster first half of the season for the Centennial Colts men’s basketball team, to say the least.
But Centennial, on their final doubleheader at home before the break, found something offensively that seems to translate into the second half of the season. Instead of Isaiah Cromwell-Wright and Kyrin Henlin carrying the offensive load, the scoring was more spread out and the offence became more unpredictable.
This resulted in double digit victories in a weekend sweep over the La Cite Coyotes (85-65) and most impressively, snapping the Algonquin Thunder’s six-game winning streak (86-69). That wrapped up 2018 for the men’s basketball team as they ended the first half of the season in fourth place in the OCAA East with a 6-4 record.
“I thought we had some success that probably didn’t result in wins but our culture was very successful,” Trevor Challenger, Colts Head Coach, said about the season’s first half.
In terms of how this year’s Colts stand out in the OCAA, they are taking great care of the ball ranking third in turnovers and fifth in points allowed, despite missing players with numerous injuries. Also, their ability to get to the rim has resulted in the team ranked second in free throw makes and attempts thus far.
‘We’re an aggressive team that likes to go to the rim; we try to put guys in areas closer to the basket for easy scores and offensive rebounding situations,” Challenger said. “Our defence the last few games have been better; we’ve been emphasizing to hold teams under 70 points a game. But every game is different.”
TOP MOMENT: Henlin Doesn’t Care About Seneca’s Winning Streak
After Seneca’s Nabil Ibrahim hit a go-ahead triple to put the reigning CCAA champions up 71-69 with 3.4 seconds left in regulation, the air was sucked right out of the building…. at least, for Centennial fans. Meanwhile, the Sting fans were raucously celebrating.
The Colts were in a difficult situation as Cromwell-Wright fouled out earlier in the quarter. Challenger and the coaching staff, after calling a timeout, had to get someone a clean look whether it was a two or three point attempt.
Hakim Dahnoun was the inbounder on the left side of the court with Isse Ibrahim guarding him. Henlin curled towards the left corner, losing his defender after a hesitation move off the ball followed by a screen from Edose Etomi.
And, for anyone who watched the game live or on the stream, the rest was history.
The shot that sent Colts fans into a frenzy (Leo Solorsano/Colts Media)
Henlin’s triple led Centennial to a 72-71 victory for the first shocking moment of the Canadian college season as this was the first moment that showed that this young Colts team was ready to make some noise. The loss was Seneca’s first in the regular season (that wasn’t a forfeit) since late in the 2016-17 season.
LOW MOMENT: Three Game Winning Streak… Followed by Three Game Losing Streak
As great of a start as the Colts got off to, all that goodwill washed away with three straight losses, with two of them coming inexplicably on the road to teams that are currently below them in the standings.
Against Georgian on Nov. 8, the Colts allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 54 per cent from the field and hit nine triples en route to a 90-85 loss. In their next game against the Canadore Panthers, Centennial shot just 30.9 per cent overall and were outscored 21-10 in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a 71-64 loss.
They then returned home to play the top seeded George Brown Huskies, where they competed hard, albeit in a 67-60 loss. But one quarter made all the difference as Centennial were outscored, 29-11, in the first quarter and let Huskies guard Liban Mohamed hit four triples during that span.
Challenger says that there are three areas in the game that the team needs to work on to have in order to rise up the OCAA East standings in the second half of the season.
“Key areas that we can get better at is game execution, slow starts and rebounding,” Challenger said. “But I really liked how we competed and bonded. We will get better with time and patience.”
The one major thing that stands out in terms of this year’s Colts is its youth and how there are many significant first year contributors; there are a total of seven first year players on the Colts roster.
“It takes time for the players to adapt to the new systems,” Challenger said when asked about what has changed this year compared to previous years. “In the past we’ve always had a few more veteran players. Aside from having younger players this year, there isn’t much off a difference (stylistically).”
This year’s recruiting class, who were introduced in late August of 2018, consisted of Cromwell-Wright, Henlin, Isaiah Adeboboye, Quentin Herbert, Darnell Richards, and Dieu Merci (DM) Betoukoumessou. Cromwell-Wright (16.3), Henlin (13.4), Adeboboye (10.9), and Herbert (8.2) rank as the top four scorers thus far for Centennial.
Meanwhile, Richards has provided a soft touch on the offensive end while Betoukoumessou has instilled energy in the Colts with his relentless work on the glass despite both players dealing with injuries throughout the season.
And even though he wasn’t introduced as part of the recruiting class over the summer, guard Quinton Paul has provided Centennial with energy on the defensive end, picking apart the pockets of opponent guards throughout the first half of the season and getting points on the fastbreak.
“During the offseason the coaching staff wanted to change the mindset of the players,” Challenger said about the recruiting process. “We looked for strong minded, coachable and committed players we can teach and groom for life.”
It hasn’t just been the rookies who have been difference makers, however. During the course of a long season, young players are bound to make mistakes and struggle at certain points. But the Colts’ veteran bunch have been vital in making this team difficult to beat.
Only two players (Edose Etomi, Khaleel Sutherland) are back from last season. However, there are some Colts players who have returned to the team after previously playing for Centennial.
Ian Francis has given Centennial a steadying presence at the point either when he’s starting or coming off of the bench and his on-ball defense gives opposing guards fits.
Carlo Pantaleon has provided a major shooting jolt to this Colts team, hitting just under 40 per cent of his triples, giving opposing defences fits whenever he is on the floor.
Etomi and Sutherland have provided the Colts with two-way play on both ends of the floor, even playing as small ball centres, whenever necessary. Etomi paired up with Henlin at the beginning of the season to provide the team with timely rim protection.
And fourth year forward Tristan Quarry has come off the bench, providing the team with a reliable threat from midrange, especially from the short corners, as Centennial looks to stretch out opposing defences.
PPG: Isaiah Cromwell-Wright (16.3)
RPG: Kyrin Henlin (6.3)
APG: Isaiah Cromwell-Wright (2.7)
BPG: Kyrin Henlin (1.5)
SPG: Kyrin Henlin (1.4)
FG%: Darnell Richards (54.2)
FT%: Darnell Richards (100)
3PT%: Carlo Pantaleon (38.6)
EAST-WEST HOLIDAY SERIES 2018: How Centennial Fared and Up Next For the Colts
“The holiday series is always tough during the break,” Challenger said. “Guys are still exhausted from the first semester grind so their focus isn’t 100 per cent.
Centennial more than held their own against the OCAA West teams despite going 1-2. They lost a tight affair (91-85) to the Sheridan Bruins and then by 20 (97-77) against the Humber Hawks but wrapped up the tournament with a 69-58 win over the Fanshawe Falcons.
“Our first game versus Sheridan was a good test to what we will see in the OCAA playoffs. We lost the game by five but played to the end,” Challenger said. “The Humber game was a little bit of a letdown losing by 20, but we think we can play against the best anytime. We won the Fanshawe game which was good considering we played them three times and lost this season.”
Centennial will look to string together a winning streak to open up the second half of the season but will be in tough as they open up 2019 with a matchup on the road against the George Brown Huskies, followed by a four-game homestand, which is their longest this season.
They wrap up the 2018-19 season at home on Saturday Feb. 16, 2019, against the Georgian Grizzlies at 3:00pm.