By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 20 2018
Let’sgo Red Hawks! This was the chant shouted in unison from the crowdwatching the Hawks’ senior basketball team in last minutes of theKawartha Championship final on Wednesday Feb. 14 in Haliburton.
Witha 50-47 lead the Hawks faithful were proving invaluable shoutingcheering and willing their team to secure the win for a top seed intothe COSSA playoffs.
Hawkspoint guard Kyle Cooper who was formidable at both ends of thecourt rebounding or leading fast-break scores with bullet passescame up with a big block sending his bench and the crowd into afrenzy.
ThenOwen Patterson-Smith sank a three-pointer to not just extend the leadto six 53-47 but had virtually everyone in the gym in hysterics.The Titans answered with their own three-pointer to narrow the gap toa one possession game with a little more than a minute left. That wasas close as it got as the Hawks held on for the 57-50 win.
Fromthe semi-final 67-51win against Campbellford earlier in the day tothe victory over the Titans in the final the Hawks showed arelentless pursuit of the ball on both ends of the floor. Theirtenacity in the paint was exemplary and the effort to hit the deckfor loose balls was without comparison.
Cominginto the playoffs the head-to-head between these teams was adifferent story than what played out in the final. Haliburtondominated the Titans 53-33 in both regular season meetings.
Howeverthe coaching staff expected a close game despite the regular seasonbecause the Titans were missing their starting player Chris Flynn.
“Webeat them by 20 points both times. I was like Chris is probably goodfor 15 so I knew it was going to be a tight game. When we were downby four at the half I was like ‘yeah this is the game we signedup for. So let’s dig deep and let’s get it done’” Longosaid.
Flynnended up leading all players with 27 points more than half histeam’s total.
Thefirst half of the game was a back-and-forth affair.
Therewere several lead changes and momentum shifts. At the half the Hawkswere down four losing 33-29.
Longosaid during this break he encouraged his players and emphasized theimportance of rebounding and that they needed to improve from thesecond half.
“Ithought we really stepped it up in the second half on boxing out andgetting in better position for rebounding and getting the transitiongame going” he said.
Headds the team were better in the second half in all facets of thegame.
Mostnotably was how the Hawks’ composure improved in the second.
Longoacknowledged the challenge facing the officials and commended them ontheir efforts.
Inthe second half he reminded his players to forget about calls theyperceived as unjust and play.
“Ifwe don’t pay some respect to referring it’s not going to help usin the fourth quarter so I’m really proud of the way they settleddown and kept their composure. Especially with not talking to therefs about anything and just playing the game. Then we got a coupleof calls in the fourth quarter that could have gone either way. Theywent our way. That’s a credit to our guys for keeping our composureand being respectful” he said.
Cooperled the Hawks with 19 points while Patterson-Smith scored 17 points11 of which were in the second half. Forward Zak Shantz was steadyand put in a workman- like performance scoring eight points.
Hecredited his younger second unit players coming off the bench anddoing their jobs.
Thisincluded Grade 11 point guard Austin French who came up “clutch”and Grade 11 Steve Dudgeon. French finished with several steals (twoin a row) and five points (all in the second half) but also used hisvision to find players stretching the defence.
Dudgeona rookie was called into action to replace injured teammates RylanGwyn who was injured in the semi-finals and Kade Bain who wasinjured in the final and left on the bench with his shoe off. Heplayed well guarding the Titans’ centre Jacob Thalen who finishedwith 16 points. Thalen was limited to three points in the second halfthanks to Dudgeon.
“StevieD stepped up big time in the middle. Did some really good on D” hesaid.
AlsoColeman Heaven played well Longo said.
“Myyounger guys … I wish I could’ve got everybody on the floor inthe final but sometimes in those kind of games it’s tough. It’smy one little regret. It’s nice to get a Kawartha championshipunder our belt” he said.
Herecognized his players’ disappointment for those who didn’t play.
Holdingon to this victory after a tough battle is going give his teamconfidence they can play in tight games heading into COSSA he said.
Thewin also assures the Hawks are the top seed from Kawartha and willplay the second seed from the Quinte area. Before it was decided (atthe time of the interview) he expected perennial basketballpowerhouse Nicholson to make it to COSSA hosted by St. Thomas AquinasCatholic Secondary School in Peterborough this Thursday. Haliburtonas the top seed was going to host COSSA but due to a schedulingconflict deferred.
“It’snice not to have to see them first. I think that’s good for ourguys” he said.
Longohas already told his players that winning COSSA semi-final is theequivalent of making it to the all-provincials.
“Tome that’s like an OFSAA berth” he said.
Nicholsonwon the OFSAA bronze medal last year and the core group is returningwith high expectations so they will be strong and a tough test.
“Butyou know what? We’re going to go down there and give themeverything we got. You got to play the game. You know. You neverknow what can happen. These two wins today do a heck of a lot for ourconfidence going forward” he said.
Juniorsfall short of advancing
Thesecond game of the Kawartha junior playoffs day was between the RedHawks and the Knights of Norwood. There was just six points keepingthe Hawks from advancing to the finals and a berth to COSSA.
Theylost 25-20 to the Knights in the semi-finals. It was a tight and lowscoring game. However the Hawks played catch-up most of the gamefacing a deficit of up to 10 points late in the third quarter. Hawkscentre Joe Boice took over grabbing rebounds on both ends andscoring all of his six points in the third and early in the fourth tobring the team to within four points. He was unstoppable.
Unfortunately he subsequently fouled out. His absence was felt butHaliburton didn’t give up. Holden Dupret Smith scored a jumper tonarrow the gap to two 20-18 with 3:31 left in the fourth. That wasas close as the juniors could get.
Boiceand Jaxon Gill led the Hawks with six points each.
Allthe coaches would like to congratulate the boys on a great season.Highlights included sweeping the Fenelon Falcons and beatingfirst-place Brock in the regular season.
Withfiles from Judi Paul.