By Darren Lum
Published Jan. 22 2019
When it comes to watching basketball in the Highlands the Red Hawks junior boys basketball team is it. Being the only show in town the team is proving to be worthy of great entertainment for how they execute on both ends of the floor and the excitement they play with.
For the most part the team has been competitive in every game. Currently third the team is on the move having won four in row. Their latest victory coming against the Kawartha West division leading Spartans of Lindsay Collegiate Vocational Institute on Tuesday Jan. 15 in Haliburton.
This game was more than a 42 -24 win over a division rival it was a statement said head coach Paul Longo.
He calls this an overall solid performance for his team who came very close to playing as well as they possibly can on defence and offence.
“That was our most complete game for sure. We played with discipline. We played with purpose. We played great defence the whole game really. That's the best team in the [division] right now so it's nice to get a win like that at home” he said. “I've been telling these guys that we're right there with I.E. Weldon and LCVI and we're showing it so it's a good character win for us.”
The Hawks’ win puts them in second just two points behind the Spartans and I.E. Weldon who also won on the same day. After this victory the Hawks are 1-1 when it comes to head-to-head match-up with the Spartans.
Getting the win helps to avenge the early season 42-38 loss played in Lindsay back on Dec. 11.
This game was close after the first quarter when it was 11-10 for the visiting Spartans. However the Hawks took over the second quarter and then took a 19-10 lead into the halftime break.
The depth of the squad was on showcase in this game when the team really needed to show that extra gear and retake control of the game which appeared to shift.
At the end of the third the Hawks starters were tiring and the Spartans capitalized going on a mini six to two run. Just before Longo called a time-out he recognized the fatigue setting in and turned to Vikram Marathe and Brenden Newhook for a change of pace.
“I just said 'Boys get out there and play good defence’” he said.
They brought energy and tenacity to the floor helping set the Spartans back on their heels. The lead was pushed to 33-20 to end the third quarter. In a few minutes of playing time to close the quarter Newhook got a steal while Marathe helped with an assist and a bucket.
Another bench player Longo was impressed by was Teo O'Malley.
He played with intensity and purpose and got “everybody fired up.”
O'Malley was solid defensively and scored five of his seven points in the second half to ensure the Spartans didn't get a whiff of hope of a comeback.
Defence has been the hallmark for the team this season and it was on display against the Spartans who have scored the points in all of Kawartha with 473 after nine games.
“Our press is really working well right now. Guys are buying into it. They believe in it and they want to do it. They got quick feet and fast hands. Things are working well that way right now. We can't get too … it's a good win but we've got a lot of work to do still but we'll take it. We'll be happy for it.”
Longo said the team made a minor tweak to the press applying the pressure at the half court.
“It's allowing our big men to drop back a little more in case of a long pass. It seems to be working out well” he said.
As of Thursday the Hawks have the second best points allowed average among all 16 Kawartha League teams. They have allowed 195 points after seven games for a 27.8 per game allowed average compared to the St. Mary team with an average of 25.6 per game after playing only five games.
The Spartans also learned that even if they break the press there is another line of defence to overcome to score. Coming up with some seven blocks was centre Jaxon Gill who also added five points.
Longo commends all of his “bigs” players at the five – such as Gill and Ryan Mee who scored 10 points to lead the team and the game for being effective in the paint whether that's swatting away balls or pulling down rebounds.
“Our big men have been playing really well down low. They're really asserting themselves” he said.
Longo adds he suspects rebounding was in the Hawks’ favour.
Scoring 42 points wasn't a fluke for the Hawks who are close to the top teams.
The development and success of the offence has compared well to what has happened with the defence.
There were plenty of points off turnovers and on fast breaks. However off of dead ball plays the team has shown an ability to work the shot clock down working toward open looks inside or on the perimeter.
Longo said execution by his players has come from their patience but more importantly from their willingness to listen to the coaches and follow through with game plans.
Some of this is probably coming from the positive atmosphere surrounding the team as result of the players' chemistry.
“There is a nice team vibe here. Everybody is pulling for each other whether they're on the bench or on the floor and you know we're trying to get lots of minutes for everybody and it's working out well so far” he said.
This game could conceivably be their last regular season home game unless an earlier scheduled game against I.E. Weldonwhich was postponed due to school bus cancellations is moved to Haliburton. It has not been rescheduled yet. The team has two scheduled games on the road.
First they will play rival single A team St. Thomas Aquinas on Thursday Jan. 17 in Peterborough and then square off against the Falcons of Fenelon Falls Secondary School on Tuesday Feb. 5 in Fenelon Falls. Both division opponents are lower in the standings than the Hawks but as the Spartans found out nothing is certain in high school basketball.