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Another weekend of mixed results for the Sudbury Five
2024-04-07

Notwithstanding the opening ten minutes or so of the game, the Sudbury Five handled a TBL (The Basketball League) interlocking opponent with relative ease Sunday afternoon at the Sudbury Arena – again.

And once again, this impressive victory would come on the heels of a tough loss to a BSL (Basketball Super League) opponent – one of those very teams that the Five will face in post-season play.

The concern over this pattern was not lost in the least on Sudbury head coach Logan Stutz or his players. “We’ve got to be able to do this against tougher opponents,” noted the passionate bench boss after the Five overcame a slow start in eventually corralling the Glass City Wranglers, 141-106 in the second half of the weekend set.

“That will be our next challenge.”

For as much as there was plenty to like in the lopsided victory, the truth is that much of the good is difficult for this team to sustain when they face a more competitive opponent – say like the Newfoundland Rogues, who bounced the Five 113-110 Saturday night in Sudbury and will play host to the Northern Ontario crew for a three game set this coming weekend in St John’s later this month.

“You’ve got to use these games to get better,” noted veteran A.J. Mosby Jr, who again led his team offensively on Sunday, finishing with 26 points in an encounter that featured nine different players from the homeside hitting the scoresheet in the opening quarter alone – and all 12 that were dressed putting up points by the game’s end.

Despite dressing only eight players for the game, the Wranglers threw an early scare into the locals, hitting on five of their first seven three point attempts to grab a 17-7 lead out of the gate.

Down 21-15 just a few minutes later, Stutz made a wholesale line change, something of a rarity at this level of basketball. Thankfully, it worked.

“It was the second group that really got us going,” said Stutz, with the bi-product being six different players in double digits as Duane Notice (18), Daniel Sackey (16), Landon Kirkwood (14), Paul Harrison (14) and Keljin Blevins (10) joined Mosby Jr in that grouping.

“We just had to get stops, play with urgency and share the basketball.”

One day after lamenting the difficulty his team seems to have to carry a much-appreciated intensity that they show in practice into a game setting for a full 48 minutes, Stutz had reason to believe it might happen again – despite the fact that Sudbury was clearly the better team on Sunday.

“They came out hot and our first group, we didn’t do a good job of pressuring the ball,” said Mosby Jr. “He (coach Stutz) brought in the second five and the second five put more pressure on.”

By the end of the first quarter, the signs were in place for the inevitable, the Five leading 35-29 and fully capable of simply exploiting a huge size advantage on the inside – though they would target a much more balanced approach in increasing that quarterly cushion to 71-51 (after Q2) and 108-83 (after Q3) en route to the win.

“We could have scored a lot of different places so we tried to focus more on defense,” said Stutz. “But at the end of the day, it was good to see everyone involved.”

On Saturday night, the Rogues rode a second and third quarter sequence where they increased the lead to a game high 17 points (79-62) and subsequently withstood a late rally from the Five, the victory improving their record to 16-12, just slightly ahead of the Sudbury squad (14-11).

“For three quarters, they came out and dictated the pace,” suggested Stutz. “I just don’t get why we don’t go out there and do it. We play harder in practices than we do in games and the results won’t be there if we only practice but don’t play hard.”

“It’s very frustrating right now.”

Led by the one-two punch of Marquise Collins (37 pts) and Shandarious Cowart (24), Newfoundland was up only 26-24 after 12 minutes of play before bumping the gap to 59-46 by the half.

“We weren’t communicating out there and we made adjustments really late,” noted Deontae Hawkins, his 16 point output more than doubling his best outing since arriving in Sudbury a few weeks ago.

And for as much as there are surely some tactical elements to their game that require better execution, one and all involved with the Five would bring it back to a basic ingredient of virtually every single team sport.

“We have to stay locked in and encourage one another – just keep the energy high,” said Hawkins. “That’s the biggest thing. It’s easy to have the energy drop throughout the game and then you lose a bit of focus in the game.”

That was the nail on the head for coach Stutz.

“I am trying to find guys that are going to play hard,” he said. “We’re at that point in the season where we have to win games. If guys want to play, they need to show me and they need to play hard.”

Sudbury is at home for a pair of games next weekend versus the Los Angeles Ignite, closing out the home portion of their regular season schedule.

They travel to Newfoundland from April 18th to the 21st and head to Kitchener-Waterloo (April 27th) and Windsor (April 28th) before the start of the playoffs.

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