The First Basketball team traveled down to perennial powerhouse St. Mike's (currently #2 ranked team in GTA) for a CISAA league game on Wednesday afternoon.
A short-handed lineup due to a variety of commitments played a very solid all-around game, especially in the first half. The first quarter saw the Saints execute with purpose on the offensive end of the floor. Noah Hulton and Mario Vazquez were able to drive the paint and protect the basketball while dishing to open teammates on the perimeter. Dara Goharchi got off to a hot start from the baseline corner and Yiannis Spetsakis crashed the offensive glass. Amar Patel was aggressive in taking his man off the dribble.
The Saints earned multiple chances both from the perimeter and in the paint and were able to build an early lead. Zackhar Karakulkin was difficult for St. Mike's to deal with and got himself to the free throw line several times throughout the first half. The second unit of Bilal Mahmood and Isaac Bradbury made an immediate impact as well, as Bilal was solid at the top of the zone defence and Isaac knocked down a three-pointer off of great ball movement.
On the defensive side of the court, the Saints closed out and slid their feet well to contain St. Mikes's guards and their attempts to initiate their drive-and-kick offence. When playing zone, the Saints packed it in and benefited from some cold shooting from St. Mike's. Finally, the Saints were able to control the glass.
At the half, the Saints had managed to build a lead at 27-17, and had held St. Mike's to most likely their lowest scoring half of the year.
Unfortunately, the Saints were not able to maintain their composure and execution at either end of the floor in the second half. St. Mike's depth and athleticism began to wear down the Saints defenders, and as a result, the Saints could no longer contain dribble penetration. This allowed for layups or kick-outs to open shooters, who this time were able to connect from long range.
St. Mike's was able to set their pressure defence, and the Saints either did not pass and cut properly with a purpose or when they did break the pressure they couldn't finish on the break, so St. Mike's had no reason to take the pressure off. When the Saints did set up and execute, they still got good looks at the basket, but more often than not they allowed themselves to get pushed out to the perimeter and settle for long three-pointers with limited ball movement. The 'tale of two halves' finished with the Saints coming out on the wrong end of this one.
It was a difficult lesson to learn, but a strong first half showing for the Saints against one of the best teams in the province. The Saints will hope to build on this success this Friday/Saturday as they participate in the Small School Showcase in Oakville/Burlington - the tournament features a 16 team field of the top A/AA teams from throughout Ontario.