By Ned Bekavac
The Centennial Spartans hosted the St. James Lions on Tuesday in what could have conceivably been a preview of the District 10 senior boys basketball championship game.
Also on Tuesday, the Bishop Macdonell Celtics hosted the John F. Ross Royals in what, too, could have conceivably been a preview of the District 10 senior boys basketball championship game.
Unlike many recent seasons, this year’s exciting race to the city championship looks like it can go any of several ways.
St. James coach Bob Sharpe says it’s “been a while” since so many teams have been in the championship conversation.
“It makes for a great league. Usually it’s been one or two teams that have been contesting,” said Sharpe, after his team suffered a 60-48 loss Tuesday at Centennial.
The tilt was a snapshot of what the 2012-2013 season can look like.
At one point, St. James scored 20 straight points to build a 15-point, third-quarter lead. Yet they scored just four points in the fourth quarter and lost by a dozen.
It was a 27-point swing in about 14 minutes of basketball that’s played without the hurry-up-and-shoot pressures of a shot clock.
“They came out a lot tougher in the second half,” said Sharpe, of the Spartans.
“We had a lot of good stuff going for us in the first half. That’s why there are two halves to a basketball game.”
The loss leaves the Lions with a 6-3 record, same as the John F. Ross Royals.
Both the Bishop Macdonell Celtics and Centennial Spartans are in first place with 8-1 records.
All losses for the four teams have come in common games – none have lost against any of the league’s other squads.
While Centennial has eight title wins since St. James last won it (in 2000), the Lions’ fourth-quarter crumble wasn’t due to any sort of awe factor, said Sharpe.
“(Spartans) Coach (Rob) Conroy always has a good team on the floor, no matter who he has, and you know you have to play a full game against them. We just didn’t play well enough in the second half and didn’t do enough good things and it slipped away,” said Sharpe.
During the Lions’ 20-point run, the Spartans put up three-bomb after three-bomb, and couldn’t find the mesh.
There was no panic, though, and the whole while, they didn’t call a timeout.
“We have a couple older guys on the team so we wanted them to take over. We didn’t hit a shot for quite a while, but we knew eventually (we would),” said Conroy, adding that a couple of his sharp-shooters have “free rein” to put up threes.
While those struggling Spartans started to find their groove in the second half, the game-winning three-pointer apparently came from an unlikely source.
With less than three minutes to go in the game, Leighton Milne hit a three that broke a 47-47 tie and put the Spartans up for good.
“It was great. I usually don’t take threes, so it was awesome,” said Milne.
With last-place Guelph CVI on the sidelines due to issues with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation labour dispute, the league is currently down to seven teams – and more than half of them, one could say, have a legit shot at winning the title.
“There are a bunch of good teams, and we’re just trying to get better each game,” said Conroy.