The inaugural edition on the CEBL’s Battle of the Border is set to take place on Tuesday, as the Ottawa BlackJacks take the trip up the 417 to meet the Montreal Alliance for the very first time.
The BlackJacks will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing home-opener, while the Alliance won the first game in franchise history on homecourt Sunday after dropping their first game in Hamilton.
Both squads saw a player step up to take the reigns in their last game, as Deng Adel scored 34 points in his CEBL debut, while Dominic Green came up with a huge 36 points against Scarborough.
What will happen when the BlackJacks face off against their closest competitor? Let’s try to find out.
The Montreal Alliance have one of the youngest rosters in the CEBL. On top of youth, they’ve built their identity on local talent. Kemy Osse, Nathan Cayo, Alain Louis, Abdul Mohamed and James Jean-Marie are just some of the Quebec-based players to represent La Belle Province this season. In two short games, they’ve already developed a reputation as a hungry, determined team, and that’s something BlackJacks head coach Charles Dubé-Brais said the team has to be aware of.
“I think the combination of Herst (Laroche), Kemy, Dominic Green, all these guys – Alain Louis who was here last year – all these guys play hard,” he said. “They got some speed; they play with a chip on their shoulder. They got a Montreal identity as well that I think they’re going play with all season long. We have to be ready for that.”
“The overall quality of athletes that they have on the perimeter can be dangerous for a lot of teams.”
Montreal showed that doggedness in their most recent game against the Shooting Stars. They had a flat performance against the Honey Badgers in their debut, eventually losing by a score of 80-72. But they bounced back to show resilience on their own floor, going toe to toe with a fittingly star-studded Scarborough team.
After heading into halftime trailing 45-37, they outscored their opponents 43-25 in the second half to score the win in front of 3500 fans. Green was undoubtedly the best player in the game, scoring his 36 points on 70% shooting. The BlackJacks will have to find a way to slow him down if they hope to notch their first win of the year.
Ottawa has to be hoping their first road game goes better than their first at home. The BlackJacks led for the majority of the game against Fraser Valley but were unable to put the team away early. Instead, the bandits were able to hang in the game long enough until a late run propelled them to victory.
Adel was quick to endear himself into the hearts of the BlackJacks faithful, scoring 12 of his 34 points (official scoresheets list him as having 37 points, but he was incorrectly credited with a Tyrell Green three-pointer) in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the home team, he was the only player able to get his offensive game rolling. But as Dubé-Brais saw it, that came down to players being unable to make their shots.
“It’s not as if only he had the ball in his hands, he just bailed us out of a lot of situations with his overall talent,” he said of Adel. “It’s obviously something that your go to guys have to do, it’s not different for other teams, but I think we need more production from other guys, and I think a lot of the players had their opportunities, they just didn’t make them. If we got a few more finishes here and there from Walt (Lemon Jr.), Cody (John), Bernard (Thompson), Chad (Posthumus), Zena (Edosmwan)… all these guys missed some opportunities that I think they could have made.”
The team also struggled to keep up with the Bandits in transition. Fraser Valley scored 21 points off turnovers, and their pace gave them plenty of opportunities from deep.
“The start of this week so far we’ve been improving upon our defensive coverages,” Posthumus said after practice on Saturday. “We’ve been working on that all week, just improving our transition. There were too many times that we could have gone in transition, made a simple play and score, but we slowed it down and didn’t make the right play, didn’t make the right read, and it turned into a tougher shot or a turnover or stop.”
As their head coach alluded to, the players who are paid to make shots need to do precisely that on Tuesday. There were far too many missed opportunities on Wednesday, especially the two missed buckets by Lemon Jr. in Elam time.
Another player looking to make a contribution early in the season is Maxime Boursiquot. The recent University of Ottawa grad – who spent four years at Northeastern University in the NCAA prior to his time with the Gee Gees – is getting an extended look while the BlackJacks await the arrival of Tommy Scrubb, Jackson Rowe, and Jermaine Haley. He’s looking to make the best of the opportunity, and knows exactly what he’s trying to bring to the squad.
“Defend,” Bourisquot said. “Defend, bring intensity, grit, rebound, do the little intangible things that most guys don’t necessarily like doing and just being consistent with that. Just helping the guys out, especially on the defensive end. Just getting stops and getting out and running.”
The BlackJacks will need that from intensity from every single one of their players on Tuesday. The Alliance already showed that is something their entire bench can bring, and Ottawa will have to match that.
Fortunately for the BlackJacks, if they can keep up with the pace of Montreal, they should have the win. Green aside, the Alliance roster has a serious lack of star power. While a number of BlackJacks failed to play up to their standard in the opener, there is no questioning that they have the more accomplish squad.
Ottawa must take advantages of the looks that they get, and ensure the Alliance aren’t given any extra chances to stay in the game. They have all the talent to get out in front early and stay there. Now they have to prove they can execute.