Lakers ground Falcons in thrilling final
Basketball: Foothills' late surge comes one-point short at home tourney
Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am
An instant classic went the way of the visitors at the Foothills Falcons annual home tourney.
The Chestermere Lakers held off a second-half surge from Foothills to hang on for a thrilling 72-71 victory to come away as Falcons Senior Boys Basketball Classic champions on Saturday evening.
“We turned the ball over too many times, they have a good half-court trap and we got ourselves into trouble a little bit too much,” said Falcons head coach Amron Gwilliam. “But I really liked the resiliency of our guys. They pushed back, fought back hard and we had a chance to tie.
“We were on the free-throw line a couple of times with a chance to tie it up and push it into overtime or maybe even take a lead. We just didn’t make free-throws at the end.”
Facing a four-point deficit with just seven seconds on the clock, the Falcons were gifted a golden opportunity to send the game to overtime from the charity stripe.
Falcons guard Hunter Karl was drilled on a rebound battle under the hoop and sent to the line on a technical foul for Chestermere. Karl, who missed a pair of free-throws earlier in the quarter, drained both shots from the line. Foothills, who kept possession after the technical call, was back at the line with a mere 0.6 on the clock when Austin Orr was fouled in the dying moments. Orr would hit one of two free-throws to allow Chestermere a palpable sense of relief and a priceless one-point win.
“I feel a little older after that game,” joked Lakers head coach Mitch Turgeon. “Never really felt safe with any lead. We went eight minutes without scoring so we just had to grind it out and win with our defence.”
The visitors, the number-one ranked 3A school in Alberta, looked to have the final within their grasp thanks to a 12-0 run to start the second quarter and a 34-27 lead at the half behind a suffocating press defence. Compounding matters, Falcons starters Karl, Orr and Noah Wilkie found themselves on the bench in early foul trouble and swingman Austin Smutko was sidelined with a leg injury sustained in the first quarter.
Foothills came out a different team after halftime and clawed its way back into contention as it began to find the formula for solving the Lakers’ press defence.
Quick ball movement.
“At the beginning I don’t believe that we had our heads straight. We came into this game not knowing what they would be like and underestimating them maybe,” said Falcons guard Jamie Derochie. “We came out in that second half with a new focus.”
“We executed well which opened up a lot more options for our team, ball movement opened up the middle and the back corner because their whole defence shifted up towards the guards.”
Unfortunately for the Falcons, Chestermere’s superstar guard also shifted into gear.
Lakers point guard Charnjot Gill set the tone for his momentous second half when he stepped back for a three 13 seconds after the break. The six-foot guard put on a clinic behind the arc, finishing the game with 36 points and player of the game honours.
“I fouled out last time we played them so I felt I had to come out strong,” said Gill. “I was just feeling it. I thought I had to step up and give the guys some leadership.”
Derochie, at the centre of the Falcons’ attack with 15 points, a pair of three-pointers from Mazeppa and countless steals to disrupt Gill and the Lakers guards, enjoyed the point-guard battle.
“It’s always fun to play against a competitor because you always play up to his level. (Gill) is a very similar point guard,” Derochie said. “We all have our strengths and weaknesses and the point of the game is to figure out what those weaknesses are.
“For the most part I did figure those out, but (Gill) did hit some key shots at the end so kudos to him.”
Wilkie led the Falcons with 19 points with Karl and Orr adding 14 and 13, respectively.
Foothills advanced to the final on the strength of both narrow and widespread victories. The Falcons opened their tournament by outlasting the Calgary Christian Cougars 57-53, led by a 21-point effort from Karl – who poured in 12 in the fourth quarter.
The Comp then moved on to the gold medal game via a 76-45 romp over the Springbank Phoenix with Karl again finishing with 21-points and Smutko chipping in with 16.
Calgary Christian went on to win the bronze medal over the Stirling Lakers.
The Falcons next game is Feb. 26 when they host the HTA Knights at 7:15 p.m.