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Not a bad weekend, all things considered
2024-03-24

If the Basketball Super League (BSL) were the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Sudbury Five would have exited the weekend with a better than .500 record by virtue of forcing the KW Titans to overtime in a 127-122 setback Saturday night, bouncing back Sunday afternoon with a 115-108 victory over the Windsor Express.

The BSL is not the OHL, however, so the Five will have to be content with a two game split – not at all bad when one considers the roster turnover the local crew endured as they prepared to face a pair of provincial rivals.

With four players making their debut in a Five uniform mere days after arriving in town, the locals went toe to toe with the first place Titans (16-7) in a contest that was tied dead even at twelve different junctures of the game – including nine times in the second half alone.

Up 58-57 at the half, the Five would find themselves deadlocked at 90-90 after three quarters of play and 116-116 at the end of regulation time, outscored 11-6 in the OT session.

“We had great energy from the new guys,” noted coach Logan Stutz, with trade acquisition Paul Harrison finishing behind only A.J. Mosby Jr in terms of team scoring, the tandem netting 23 and 37 points respectively. “They’re trying to build, they’re trying to learn. I was happy with them.”

“They came out and played hard.”

The Titans countered with eight players in double figures, led by former Five member Curtis Hollis (27) and a logjam behind him: Marque Maultsby (18); Braylon Rayson (17); Jaquan Lightfoot (14); Michael Bruce (14).

Earning 32 minutes of playing time coming off the bench, Harrison quickly endeared himself to the Sudbury faithful, displaying the soft touch in tight along with the ability to step out and hit the three that made the 6’8” centre a prime trade candidate for Stutz (the Five would send Jalen Hayes to Windsor in return).

“Sudbury has one of the best fan bases in the league,” said Harrison. “It feels so much better to have them cheering for me rather than booing me.”

Unfortunately, he was not in the lineup the next day versus his old teammates, victim to a BSL rule that forces newly-traded players to sit out the first game versus their former team (Hayes did not play for the Express on Sunday as well).

Fortunately, the Five were able to look more to their guard game to make the difference against Windsor – notably the pairing of Mosby Jr and Ja’Myrin Jackson. Again, the teams see-sawed their way through the opening 24 minutes of play, with Sudbury going to the break holding a 58-53 lead.

A 19-4 run for the homeside in quarter three featured ten points from Mosby Jr alone, part of a 17-point performance in the quarter for the Georgia native who turns 28 next month. With Windsor offering a pushback in the fourth, it was Jackson who would go off for an even dozen, leading the Sudbury attack on Sunday with 32 points.

“It was fun to see those two guys go,” said Stutz after the contest. “We wanted to get A.J. a few more shots (he was limited to four points in the opening half) – but it’s also not so much the quantity versus the quality of shots. I thought he had some good quality looks and he was able to step up and knock them down – and then Ja’Myrin right after that.”

Playing against the team that shipped him to northern Ontario a little over a month ago, Jackson was on the floor for a team high 40 minutes, clearly getting more and more comfortable with the system that the coaching staff favours in his new home.

“I feel like here in Sudbury, I am able to play more freely,” said Jackson. “He (coach Stutz) has basically given me the green light to play my natural game. We have set plays – but if you have the ball and you can create something, just do it. I was able to get hot in the fourth so it was come to me and I was able to finish.”

After a tough loss the previous night, Stutz was thankful that the weekend was not an empty-handed one for his crew. “I just like to see the guys rewarded for their hard work,” he said. “It was a really tough week. We were one shot away from having two wins this weekend, but we got one and we’ll keep building.”

Right behind the top two on the Sudbury scoring parade were Landon Kirkwood (20) and Duane Notice (18), while the free-spirit that is Shadell Millinghaus showed the way for Windsor with 32 points, with Calvin Blaydes (18) and Sam Muldrow (16) also chipping in.

The Five will enjoy a relatively more quiet Easter weekend with just one game on tap as the Lebanon Leprechauns make the trip from Indiana to Sudbury next Saturday (March 30th).

Northern Hockey Academy