A mixed bag of tricks leads Sudbury Five past Halifax
by Randy Pascal
Sudbury Five head coach Logan Stutz is still trying to learn how the various incarnations of his lineups that hit the floor for this
inaugural season of National Basketball League of Canada play in northern Ontario can create havoc for opposing teams.
In the meantime, he's more than content to ride the hot hand, recognizing that the roster he has assembled can over a variety of different looks, and a
whole slew of headaches for the adversaries trying to slow them down.
The Five improved to 7-3 on Sunday at home, knocking off the Halifax Hurricanes 120-110 as a trio of Sudbury sharp-shooters took turns stepping
into the spotlight at different stages of the contest.
Just like the night before, the locals were a little slow out of the gate, trailing 27-23 after the opening quarter, a deficit that might have been a lot
worse if not for the slash and drive efforts of Travis Releford, hitting for 10 of his 21 point production in the opening twelve minutes alone.
One of Sudbury's top defensive stretches would give the team the lead to stay in quarter two, as the Five limited the Hurricanes to just 19 points
(sub-20 point quarters are a rarity in this league), while netting 27 points of their own to hold the upper hand, 50-46 at the half.
Coming off the bench, guard Adam Blazek would find his touch quickly, picking up right where Releford left off, torching the visitors for 11
points in quarter two, and racking up 20 on the afternoon. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around and the Sudbury squad was looking at a double digit
advantage (84-72 after three), it was time for Braylon Rayson to catch fire.
The Dallas native, who is a constant threat to put up a three-pointer from pretty much anywhere on the court, accounted for no less than 21 of the Five's
final 34 points, finishing the contest with 34 points of his own as the Hurricanes made a couple of decent runs, only to see Sudbury counter quickly.
All in all, it was a nice win for the new team, coming off a tough 120-116 loss the previous evening to the defending league champion London
Lightning. “We needed to clean-up our offense, turnover-wise, just run our sets and execute,” said Blazek.
“I thought we started a little bit shaky in the first half, but I think we cleaned up really well in the second half, got good possessions, and guys
stepped up and make some big shots.”
For NBL veterans like Blazek (he's in his third year in the league, with previous stops in Niagara and Kitchener-Waterloo), it's not a big surprise that
coach Stutz will harp, with regularity, on the need to play good defense, showcasing that ability to come up with a big stop when needed.
In his mind, however, patience in this regard is sure to payoff. “The pick and roll defense is hard, in the first place, to master,” noted Blazek. “We
just need more reps, as the season goes on, just to get our communication down. Along with that is the rotations, knowing when we need to move and help and
recover for other guys.”
“The fluidity of playing good team defense will show up moreso in January and February. We have room to grow, which is always a good thing.”
In fact, that theme is evident with several aspects of this group. Starting lineups continue to vary, as Stutz and his staff experiment somewhat in the
early stages of the 2018-2019 campaign. “Being comfortable with each different lineup, with all of the different sets, is key,” said Blazek. “Even just
being comfortable playing your own game, but within the team dynamics, finding that balance.”
“Coach is doing a good job of leading this team and working through the subs and the lineups,” Blazek added. “He'll improve as well, which is a good
thing. He's a brand new coach, so we're very optimistic.”
The reality for Stutz, as well as assistant coaches Kyle Beers and Denis Gauthier, is that they are still smack dab in the middle of a
very steep learning curve, one which a 7-3 record would suggest they are tackling quite well.
“Logan is definitely finding his own, starting to find his own flavour,” noted Beers, the head coach for the five-time SDSSAA champion Lasalle
Lancers before jumping on board with the Five this winter. “He's a player's coach, the guys like playing for him.”
“He went out and got a lot of guys that he felt didn't really have a fair shake last year, a lot of guys that were on the bench. I think they value the
chance that they have been given, and I think we're just trying to put them in a place where they make us look good,” Beers added.
The Five will now travel east, heading to Newfoundland to face the St John's Edge on both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, this week, returning
home on Friday to host the Island Storm from Charlottetown. Sudbury has not faced either of these teams yet this year, with the Edge sitting at 4-5
and the Storm winners in two of their first six games of the year.