The First Basketball Saints were guests at UCC's 'Winterfest' on Friday afternoon, in a rematch of the CAIS semi-final. This game didn't disappoint, as it was another thriller that went down to the wire. It was a great environment for basketball, as the gym was packed full of rowdy fans that were into the action from start to finish.
In the opening quarter, the Saints put on a defensive clinic and slowed UCC's attack. Good defensive slides, solid communication on screens, and active zone rotation kept UCC scoreless through the first five minutes of the game. Meanwhile, the Saints executed well and were able to finish off the drive and kick and pick and roll action.
Dylan Tabone and Jacob Grant both attacked the basket well, while Yiannis Spetsakis controlled the defensive glass. Isaac Bradbury and Bilal Mahmood ran a composed offence to close out the quarter, and the Saints led 11-5 after one.
In the second quarter, some confusion defending screens allowed UCC's top shooting guard to get good looks and he made the Saints pay. UCC closed the gap, but the Saints went inside to Zakhar Karakulkin, and he had a fantastic quarter by showcasing a strong series of post moves that earned him 8 points in the quarter. Wells Karabin was very unselfish on offence, finding Amar Patel with great drive and kick passing for an open three. The Saints hung on leading 22-20 at the half.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair. UCC started to heat up and connected on three-pointers from the perimeter, but Zakhar Karakulkin, Wells Karabin, and Dara Goharchi responded from beyond the arc with triples of their own. Noah Hulton was fantastic defensively and in transition, picking up steals and turning them into fast-break buckets. However, he also picked up a 'frustration' foul that had him playing with 4 fouls midway through the quarter.
Heading into the final frame, it was 35-32 for the Saints. The Saints briefly blew the game open with fantastic defensive play which transitioned into fast-break opportunities. Noah Hulton continued to push the tempo but was assessed his fifth foul with three minutes remaining and had to leave the game.
With an 8 point lead, the Saints needed to manage pressure and the clock but made some poor decisions in both situations. Rushed shots in an attempt to hit 'the dagger' missed and gave the ball back to UCC without using much of the clock. Some bad luck after Karabin and Karakulkin blocked shots saw the ball land right in the hands of UCC players for layups. On the final possession, the Saints played great defence late into the clock but then didn't switch on dribble motion, leaving UCC's best shooter open in the corner. Just like Dara Goharchi at CAIS, UCC's shooter had nerves of steel and made the Saints pay, nailing the triple to send the game into overtime.
In the overtime frame, UCC was confident and continued to hit challenged shots from the perimeter. The Saints adjusted and forced them inside, but they were able to score on isolation plays there as well. The Saints battled and tried to close the gap from the free throw line, but couldn't knock down enough open shots. UCC sealed the victory at the free throw line after the Saints were forced to foul.
Despite coming out on the wrong end of things, it was a great game and the Saints played with character and determination throughout!
Story by: Sean Ludwig, Coach