Crusaders keep unbeaten record intact

NBBL- LogoIn the North of the Border Basketball League’s Game of the Week, the Knights defeated the Badgers, 73-61, led by Arun Kumar’s 21 points as part of the five-game card on Friday (June 14).

The victory was the fourth consecutive for the Knights (4-1), who have found their rhythm after an opening-game loss. While behind at times against the well-rounded Badgers, the Knights were able to shoot themselves back into the lead and execute down the stretch to give the Badgers (3-1) their first loss of the season.

Recent Toronto Varsity Blues grad Kumar’s hot shooting and ability to swing the ball to generate great scoring opportunities was emblematic of the team perspective. The Knights used a drive and kick offence, forcing the defence to collapse into the middle and kick out to open shooters.

“We have guys who can play off the dribble really well, breaking defenders down to find each other,” Kumar said after the game. “We don’t care who scores the most points; whoever’s hot we go to them. We try to turn our defence into offence because we’re fast and a small team playing with four guards… we push in transition and it looks like we live and die by the three but it worked today.”

The Knights were also led by St. Francis Xavier’s Tyrell Vernon who posted 17 points and seven assists, and the double-double from Zach Angelini of Waterloo with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Early in the game it was the Badgers who looked like the aggressor. Brock star Tshing Kasamba opened the game with a three and a dunk as the Badgers jumped to an early lead. The Badgers were missing Meshack Lufile, a 6’9” forward from Cape Breton University, but still had the edge physically over the Knights.

With the Knights trailing, 43-34, at the half, they worked out a game plan in a team huddle that demonstrated their chemistry. Many of the Knights played together at St. Thomas More high school.

“All of us have known each other for a long time and we know each other pretty well,” said Angelini. “We can criticize each other and it doesn’t get to our head.”

Kumar agrees saying; “We’ve played with each other in countless tournaments and we hang out together in downtimes so we know how to push each other and we know how each other plays, so it’s like family almost. I love playing with these guys.”

Kasamba and Rashed Morley, a 6’6” wing from Niagara College, continued to make the highlight reel with athletic plays but the Badgers’ lead was slipping. On this night they looked less cohesive than the Knights, but often had the size and versatility to compensate.

The Knights also took care of the rock, turning the ball over just six times compared to the Badgers’ 13 giveaways. Down the stretch the Badgers couldn’t get anything to drop, while the Knights were making hustle plays and getting better ball movement.

Angelini drained a dagger three to put the Knights up 66-61 with 1:22 left and the game was sealed. “The competition level is better than expected,” said Angelini. “We have a whole bunch of CIS guys, CCAA guys, and every week it’s competitive.”

“Hamilton hasn’t been elite like this in a while so it’s good to see everybody come out,” said Kumar. “Guys that play college outside of province and the states to come back. There’s four, five, six very good teams in this league so every night is a good game”

“I grew up with these guys I’m playing with now on club teams and a lot of the guys are from Hamilton, too, so it’s nice for basketball and also socially too because you meet a lot of people you haven’t seen in a while and everybody gets together on Fridays so it’s a good environment, it’s fun.”

Mohawk and Burlington Elite played in a thrilling contest on Friday night. The game had a number of lead changes and came right down to the wire before Mohawk escaped with the 73-63 win. Jordan Clarke and Ostap Choliy set the tone early for the Burlington Elite, hitting big shot after big shot while building a small 8-point lead against Mohawk.

However, the Campbell Brothers – Manny and Aron – came out as if they were a victory mission. The Mohawk duo kept the pace of the game at a blistering tempo, pushing the ball in transition while getting to the rim and getting their teammates involved at the same time. Aron Campbell hit three three-pointers in a row with just 3:30 minutes left in the game giving Mohawk a four-point advantage. Jordan Clarke was able to answer each shot with one of his own and was able to tie the game at 69-69. Manny Campbell, then took over the game with some key defensive stops and some strong takes on the offensive end. Manny Campbell ( 23 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals) played an phenomenal game throughout the entire 44 minutes and was rewarded by being named the Player of the Week. Aron Campbell (22 points, 5 assists , 4 rebounds and 2 steals) also played a great game and hit some big shots down the stretch. The brothers accounted for 45 points, 13 assists, 9 rebounds and 5 steals en route to the victory. The leader in rankings for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, Taylor Dowhaniuk, (10 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks) had an outstanding defensive effort coming up with 4 blocks and some key defensive rebounds as well as a highlight reel slam dunk. The Burlington Elite came up short in the game despite a stellar team performance. Ostap Choliy ( 14 points, 2 assists and 3 rebounds) knocked down 4 three-pointer in the loss and Jordan Clarke ( 24 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 steal) had one of his best performances of the season.

Mohawk (3-1) next plays the 1-3 Hamilton All-Stars. The (3-2) Burlington Elite will be up against another tough in the 5-0 Crusaders.

The Jaguars came out with energy early and played one of their best all-around games of the season in posting a 74-68 decision over the Halton Region Stars. The Jaguars received contributions from everyone on the court offensively. They were hustling for every loose ball and playing outstanding defence.

The Jaguars built a 15-point lead with just 18:00 minutes left to play. The pesky Halton Stars made yet another late game push and cut the lead to two points with two minutes left. With just 1:30 remaining in the game, Steve Mucowintore took a shocking 3-point shot and hit nothing but the bottom of the net putting the Jaguars up 5 to seal the victory.

The Jaguars were led by Kenan Etale’s 8 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. His all-around effort was one for the record books as he broke the league record for assists in a single regular season game. The Jaguars were led in scoring by Jimmy Bilenga’s 18 points and Sam Hattin’s 17 points. Daniel McAlonan was hot from three and netted four three-point baskets to score 12 points to go along with 5 rebounds and Mucowintore (9 points and 2 rebounds) hit some big shots late in the game. Elvis Momat registered a double-double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists.

The Halton Stars received a great performance from Sean Nickel, who tallied 26 points, 5 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Carlton University product Connor Wood, displayed his versatility registering 20 points, 3 assists 10 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks and was a major reason why Halton was able to reduce the lead and get into position to steal another win. Troy Stevenson chipped in with 12 points. Halton simply couldn’t find its stride from long range and was unable to capitalize with open looks that were provided to them.

The (2-3) Jaguars next play the (0-5) Jayhawks. The (3-1) Halton Stars will meet the hottest shooting team in the league right now, the (4-1) Knights.

In a battle of two winless teams, the Hamilton All-Stars (0-3) emerged victorious over the Jayhawks (0-4) with a 60-54 result. Both teams have had a tough schedule to start the season and have had some close contests that they could’ve won. The game was a very close match-up and saw several lead changes throughout the contest. However, the Hamilton All-Stars were able to pull out the victory with some gritty play on defence.

The All-Stars were carried by a stellar performance by their big man, Martell Stamenkovic ( 26 points 3 assists, 8 rebounds and 3 steals). Stamenkovic had a huge offensive outbreak scoring or assisting on 1/3 of his teams total points. Kyle Nickerson ( 6 points, 3 assists, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks), in his first game of the season, was the energy spark for Hamilton’s defence with some physical and aggressive play. Mirko Smolovic (14 points and 8 rebounds) also played a strong game and helped with the offensive load.

The Jayhawks can’t seem to get on the right track. Picking up another loss early continues to hurt their playoff chances.

Cudjoe Masuka (12 points, 2 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block) led the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks newest addition from the REDA Canada Program, Tevon Edwards, ( 9 points, 1 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals) also contributed but will need to play a bigger role the next game, as the Jayhawks will be counting on him for more offense. Matt Brown chipped in with 10 points and 7 rebounds.

The (0-5) Jayhawks next game is against the (2-3) Jaguars. The 1-3 Hamilton All-Stars will have a very tough opponent they square off against the (3-1) Mohawk team.

Player of the Game was Stamenkovic.

The Braves took the court this week with two new guards in Jelani Deliovsky ( University of Manitoba) and Roland Gulaton (St. Mary’s Alum) but it wasn’t enough as the Crusaders beat them, 75-52.

The Braves started off well and were trading leads with the Crusaders for the first 10 minutes of play until the Crusaders defensive pressure caught up to the Braves. The Braves started forcing passes and committing turnovers. The Crusaders were doubling the post and rotating very well to the help side defensively, causing the Braves post players to kick the ball out and have minimal effect on the game.

Michel Clark (19 points, 3 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals) played an outstanding game and was all over the court defensively. Clark’s hustle set the tempo for the rest of the Crusaders team, as they came up with 12 steals setting the league record. With another win for the Crusaders, they now sit at 5-0 and remain the only undefeated team in the league.

The Crusaders were led in scoring by Player of the Game Victor Raso ( 20 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals) who put in another impressive showing. Michel Clark was the X-Factor of the game and played outstanding defence. He also put up his NBBL summer league season career high 19 points. Benjamin Ibrahim and Ed Hakenberg chipped in with 11 and 10 points respectively.

The Braves were led by another outstanding game from Terance Licorish ( 17 points, 2 assists, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks) however, the Crusaders were able to hold him under his season average of 24.5 points per game with their creative defensive schemes.

Newcomer Deliovsky ( 18 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 7 turnovers) was able to put points up on the board in bunches throughout the game but had a tough time in the first half controlling the ball and ended up turning the ball over a league record seven times. Muctar Diaby was swarmed all game by the Crusaders double teams and constant rotations and was held to just 6 points to go along with 13 rebounds.

The Crusaders next game is against the Burlington Elite. The Braves have the bye week.

All games are played on Friday nights at Redeemer College University with the first contest getting under way at 5:45 p.m. and the last game starting at 9:45 p.m.