This Saturday, February 9 the UTM men’s varsity basketball team went toe-to-toe with the Niagara College Knights. Although a game fought with heart, the Eagles lost 95-81. It was quite worth it for the audience however, as the Niagara Knights exhibited some pretty interesting players and the way both teams morphed their plays to adapt to each other’s style and weaknesses produced an elegant game of equals.

The first quarter started with Van Hutchinson, from Niagara College, delivering a beautiful dunk over the Eagles. This was followed by UTM’s, Nicholas Kwantwi, getting foul shots from a layup and swiftly scoring both. The Knights exhibited an aggressive style from the start, with some players showing the capability for tremendous risk-taking by driving the ball into the net and daring a shot.

Another major deficiency in the Eagles was noted when Niagara’s, Jordan MacDonald, got a rebound and put it up to score a goal. The Eagles evidently sustained a major disregard for rebounds, and the Knights were continuously able to snatch a majority of the rebounds and simply put it up for easy goals. The Niagara Knights also started off with a staunch defense, rendering the Eagles to take most of their shots around the three-point line. This defense was especially notable in their blocks when Lequan Hylton, from the Niagara Knights, got a block on UTM’s, Gregory Roberts.

UTM’s Zamam Khan, also felt the pressure of the defense when he got a pass in the paint but the sheer quantity of Knights under the net caused the shot to miss by a hair. Hutchinson from the Knight’s really captured the game for his team, getting a total of 22 points. His signature move was driving in from the side, under the net and then putting the ball up, directly below the board. Keveshan Padachey was another major influence for Niagara, who had terrific shots with his 3 pointers and scored the second highest at 19 points.

On the Eagle’s side of the court, it was crystal clear that Roberts really dominated the team, getting a total of 45 points and 55 per cent of his team’s goals. No less expected of the OCAA’s lead scorer. Robert’s ability to coordinate the team and lead the plays as the point guard was unparalleled. Kwantwi was another major force, where he stayed on for the whole game, getting 13 points, as well as most of the rebounds.

The quarter ended with the Knights scoring a goal as Padachey managed to get a 3 pointer and nudged the score up 22-9 with the Knights on top.

The second quarter was also dominated by the Knights where it started with Padachey getting another 3 in the last second of the 24 second clock. Then the Knights’ defense dismantled UTM’s offense exceedingly, especially with a severe lack of successful passes. The apex of this defense was visibly seen when Niagara’s, Kevin Cooper, got a resonant block on John Filaber, earning a shuddering gasp from the bleachers. This ability to dominate the paint was also seen on offense where the Knights continuously got multiple attempts at shots through their constant prowess on rebounds. The quarter ended 47-33 with the Knights again on top.

The last two quarters is when the Eagles really stepped it up, getting a 3 to start with and then Kyle Krist getting a clean layup over Hutchinson to score a basket. Cooper tried getting a jump shot under the net but got bombarded by four Eagles overhead, setting an example for a much stronger defense from the Eagle’s side. The Knights clearly weren’t able to penetrate the paint as usual. In fact, the Eagles were using man-to-man defense and moving around swiftly enough but the Knights showed a great mastery for picks and used them briskly to get clean shots at the net.

    The Eagles also started passing a lot and getting much of the rebounds. Especially noted was their attention to players, where the Eagles put a ton of manpower on the more dangerous Knights such as Hutchinson and Hylton, the instant they got the ball. This is also when Khan displayed a giant shift in attitude, gaining much more influence on offense and defense. Although a late bloomer, his sheer effort pushed the whole team farther up to a higher level with a lot more visible energy for sinking baskets. The fourth quarter ended with Roberts scoring off the backboard in a rebound and subsequently the Knights scoring 2 foul shots with a second left in the game.

     The Knights won 95-81 and it was a game won admirably. The sheer skill with which the players carried themselves definitely must have left the Eagles ample food for thought on what’s possible on a court.