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Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2019
Make it a Five in the win column for Sudbury court crew
by Randy Pascal

Playing four of their first seven games in their inaugural season of National Basketball League of Canada competition opposite the well-established Windsor Express, the Sudbury Five will be more than happy to take a trio of victories and run.

“They're a good team, a well coached team,” noted Sudbury head coach Logan Stutz, not long after his club earned yet another close win over the Express, holding on to the tune of a 123-121 final scoreboard at home Sunday afternoon.

“They have a lot of veteran players,” Stutz added. “We've got their number and it's very fortunate for us. I'm glad we don't have to see them for a while.”

Despite capturing five of their first seven outings in the 2018-2019 season, the Five have yet to win a contest by more than four points. In the minds of players and staff alike, that might not be a completely bad thing.

“It's always good to be battled tested and be able to close out games,” said Stutz. “Obviously, we're an offensively minded team. I've really challenged the team to come up with some big defensive plays. We had some of those tonight.”

“We're getting through adversity,” added NBL freshman Dexter Williams Jr. “Adversity happens in basketball, and we're winning by one, two, three points, and that's what good teams do. We're finding a way to win – and we're still getting to know each other, so this is only the beginning.”

With Travis Releford sidelined with illness, the newly acquired Williams Jr earned his first start in northern Ontario, filling in nicely with a 24-point performance, second only on the team to guard and leading scorer Braylon Rayson with 25.

“Whether I am playing 10 minutes, 18 minutes, I'm just showing the coaching staff that I can play hard every time I'm out there,” said Williams. “I just want to give my team energy. I played hard today and got rewarded.”

Like pretty much every Sudbury game this year, Sunday's encounter featured several swings in momentum, with the Five pulling away for near double digit leads in the first and third quarters, only to see Windsor use the inside game to battle their way back.

A lead of 34-26 after twelve minutes of play for the hometown crew had evaporated by the half, the Express leading 64-40 at the break. Sudbury, however, would bounce back in the third, sparked by three point baskets from Rayson (2), Jaylen Bland and Georges Serresse, as well as a run of seven consecutive points in the middle of the quarter from Williams Jr.

Perhaps, more than anything else, this game would reflect two very different styles, the Express supplementing the outside shooting of Ryan Anderson (22 pts) with the inside challenge that is DeAndre Thomas (21 pts). The Windsor approach is one that can lead to certain opportunities for the lineup that took to the floor for Sudbury.

“They're very physical, and the way that we can beat them is run,” said Williams Jr. “When they try and play our game, they're not going to beat us. That's what we did today. We played fast, and they tried to play fast with us, and they can't hang with us if we play fast.”

After establishing a 94-86 lead after three quarters of play, the Five managed the final twelve minutes of play quite efficiently, for the most part. They would not relinquish the lead, and actually enjoyed a small degree of insurance, until the very last minute of play.

With Windsor trailing by five and time winding down, Rayson bumped Horace Wormely from behind, the latter throwing up what was pretty much a desperation three. Sinking all three shots from the charity stripe, the visitors cut the margin to just two, forcing Sudbury to in-bound the ball with eight seconds to play.

Despite losing control off the in-bound pass, the Five would catch a break, as a Windsor player who slid to the floor attempted to call a timeout. Not only do league rules not allow a timeout from the floor, the whistle would lead to a Sudbury possession, as the Central Division leaders made no mistake in wasting the final 2.5 seconds for the win.

It wasn't necessarily a perfect victory, but a victory, nonetheless.

“We know how good we are, but we've got to focus and execute,” said Stutz. “When we focus, we're fine. When we lose focus, it makes things difficult.”

The local NBLers, who face Windsor for one final time this season on January 17th, continue a very busy month of December schedule with three games in the next week, and four in the week after that.

The Five will travel south to face the KW Titans for the second time on Thursday, back home next weekend for matchups with the London Lightning (Saturday at 7:00) and Halifax Hurricanes (Sunday at 2:00).

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