Cougars avoid disaster with return in second half

[attach]1227[/attach]Marc Garneau Cougars stonewalled Ursula Franklin Flames in the second half to return from a 15-point deficit in Tier 2 senior boys basketball.

The 58-53 win for the Don Mills and Overlea high school was a no easy task, coach Narmatha Thava said, adding the players knew their deficiencies heading into halftime trailing 36-25.

“We talked about how we have to come forward with tighter defence as a team,” she said. “A lot of (the Flames) were basically running around basically cherry picking, so it was the defence that pretty much won the rest of the game.”

Both teams were hungry to qualify for the South Region playoffs, with the Flames coming in at a 2-7 and the Cougars at 4-4.
Ursula Franklin was fired up right from the tip off shooting to a 14-7 lead.

Luke Stratakos had 12 rebounds and nine points while teammate Keenan Ryan led all Flames scorers with 12.

Working well to counter Ursula Franklin’s “cherry picking”, Thava said, was board-crashing Kelvin Dominique who had 18 points, two denials and Lave Srinithianathasing who contributed 20 points.

A first quarter technical foul on Billy Bethanis killed any momentum the Cougars had initially, but they regained their stride once he came back in the third quarter.

“We’re proud of their defence, and as soon as their defence started kicking in they started executing on offence,” Thava said. “They were quite patient with the offence.

“We talked to them about how you should kind of fake and dish the ball out or look for the quick pass around the zone.”

The loss ends the Flames’ season.

But coach Andrew Batten was impressed with his charges as many had not played in organized basketball before start of the season.

“They’re so much better now than they were at the start of the season,” he said.

Batten highlighted the leadership skills of Ryan and team captain Keinan Grant.

Ryan’s skills were evident on the hardwood against the Cougars.

“It’s really come along as the season’s gone on — leading by example and leading not by getting on the other guys but actually accepting responsibility for his stuff, and everybody else has started accepting theirs.”

Grant set up many of the Flames’ easy shots in the first half, and tried to keep the team afloat. However they burned out in the second.

“He controls our offence and he always gets a couple of offensive rebounds he has no business getting and it’s all because of hustle,” Batten said. “First half we got some hustle points that were easy and the second half they got on defence, and we couldn’t get them.”
Batten admitted the reversal of fortune was another team finding the right strategy to douse Ursula Franklin’s fire.

“They had a guy who was running a high screen on us, and Bethanis did a really good job finding (the open man) inside,” he said.

“Our defence is pretty good on the outside shot, it’s pretty good at protecting against the post but the weakness is the high post.”

With the win, the Cougars are propelled into the playoff contention, but they will need to wrap up their season Feb. 4 against Forest Hill Falcons first.