On Wednesday, January 31, Bell Let’s Talk Day, our UTM men’s varsity basketball team took on the Conestoga Condors. In their second last home-game of the season, our Eagles looked to build off a down-to-the-wire win by our ladies’ team who played just before. Unfortunately, they came up short, falling 103 to 110 to a determined Condors team, who won their first game of the season.
Neither team seemed able to find much momentum to start the first quarter, which saw both little scoring and a lot of physical play. In the second quarter, the Condors began to pull away, building a small lead with on-point passes and impressive footwork inside the paint. UTM fought their way back, keeping it a close game. Last year’s West Division Scoring Champion and OCAA Rookie of the Year, Zamam Khan, snuck into the lane to layup a quick 2-pointer to beat the buzzer, and the Eagles tied it up, 51-51, heading into the second half.
The third quarter in this battle of the birds matchup began much like the first, with neither team gaining any kind of momentum on the offensive end. But back-to-back big-time blocks by Khan, Nicholas Kwantwi, and first year rookie Kyle Krist, gave UTM the park they needed to push past Conestoga. UTM got into rhythm, getting into the passing lanes, picking off passes and knocking down shots. A strong box-out and tip-in by centre John Filaber, topped off a 10-point lead for UTM going into the fourth quarter, the largest lead by either team in the contest thus far.
The energy from the third quarter didn’t last into the fourth. Defensive lapses and careless turnovers by UTM led to bucket after bucket by the Condors. UTM fought them off with hustle plays by Khan, and a couple of made threes by second year guard Kyle Boorman. But it wasn’t enough.
Despite the Eagles all-around good performances by everyone in UTM’s starting five, nearly all of which finished with double-digit points, the Eagles shooting over 50% from the field and 78% from the foul line, our men’s varsity team take a bitter 103-110 loss to a struggling Condors team.
“Overall, I think we played a very unselfish game, and moved the ball really well. We didn’t do a very good job defensively, especially in the fourth where we allowed them 38 points. We can’t allow that to happen if we want to close out tight games,” says Khan who finished the game with 23 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocks. “I think I played well, but I should’ve hit that game tying 3. That’s what’s really killing me right now.”
OCAA leading scoring, starting point guard Gregory Roberts echoed Khan’s thoughts about their team’s performance and short-comings in this matchup. “We played well in spurts. There was a lot of energy in the third, and we went up by 10. The fourth was a collapse. For the first 5 minutes, we settled for 3-point shots, while at the same time giving up open 3’s and baseline cuts. We had too many mental lapses in the final quarter to win that game. In hindsight, with how we finished that game, we didn’t deserve to win.” Roberts finished with 25 points, and 5 assists.
It was a game our Eagles should have won, having both physical size and talent over the second to last place Condors. Head Coach Nkosi Adams was extremely disappointed with his team’s performance. “We didn’t deserve to win,” said Adams. “We got very comfortable when we got up, and we stopped playing hard. All the credit to them [the Condors]. They played like a team. They played like they really wanted their first win. It was definitely a tough loss, especially since we had a really good win over the weekend in Lambton.”
Despite the loss, Boorman wants to acknowledge some of the positive. The game took place on National Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell’s Mental Health awareness initiative. “I think the Bell Let’s Talk game is really important for spreading awareness,” remarks Boorman. “Our team is appreciative of all the support from fans at our game and their support of Bell Let’s Talk Day in general.”
Our Eagles look to finish the season strong in their last home game of the season, and second last of the season, this coming Saturday, February 9 at 3 p.m.