The change of scenery was the only noticeable difference for the Ottawa BlackJacks, as the disappointment remained the same in an 86-80 defeat at the hands of the upstart Montreal Alliance. The team started out hot, but some poor interior defense allowed Alliance center Gaios Skordilis to score 20 points in under 18 minutes of playing time, which was enough to secure the win.
Things weren’t all bad for the BlackJacks though. They managed to get multiple players involved in the scoring output, and they may have found a true diamond in the rough in one of their U SPORTS players. But still, they’ll need a much more rounded effort on both sides of the ball if they hope to get of the schneid anytime soon.
It may have only taken three games, but Vincent Lavandier’s squad have already carved out an identity. The young, gritty team doesn’t back down from any challenge, and that was more than evident Tuesday night. Despite falling down 15-8 early, the Alliance persevered to go on an 8-0 run for the rest of the first quarter before leading for most of the majority of the second quarter.
Skordilis dominated when he was on the floor, but an injury and foul trouble limited his minutes. That allowed the BlackJacks to crawl back into the game, and we were all tied up at 59 a piece going into the final quarter.
When it mattered most, veterans Hernst Laroche and Sherwood Brown – along with former BlackJack Alain Louis – were able to find their groove and make up for the team’s lack of size. Laroche finished with 13 points, while Brown and Louis were able to score 12 and 7 points off the bench, respectively. Their performances also helped make up for a poor showing by Dominic Green, who scored just 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting after registering a 36 point effort his last time out.
The Alliance controlled most of the final quarter of the game, though a late push by Ottawa made the game look closer than it actually was. Overall, it was a well rounded effort by a young team that more than proved they are capable of handling adversity.
It’s hard to judge whether this game was a step forward or backwards for the BlackJacks. On one hand, they were able to get four players into double digits, a big improvement over their first game where Deng Adel was the only one to find his rhythm. On the other hand, they constantly had to fight in this game, unlike against Fraser Valley where they were up for long stretches and were just unable to put them away.
Walt Lemon Jr. led the game with 21 points on an 8-for-14 night from the floor. If internet reactions are anything to go by, his dribble-drive style might not endear him to fans, but it’s undoubtedly been an effective tool for him during a very successful career. Adel had another good showing, finishing with 19 points, though he was limited late in the game.
Chad Posthumus had a rough night, despite what the stat sheet says. He finished with a 12 points, 17 rebounds double-double, but he struggled on defense and was forced to foul often. As mentioned, Skordilis had a 20-point night, and that was after scoring a total of three (3) points in his previous two games combined.
Posthumus is a big, athletic, physical presence in the paint, but the BlackJacks will need to see improvement in his defensive fundamentals and footwork if they want to compete against the top teams in this league.
Perhaps the biggest struggle for the BlackJacks remains to be getting any sort of productivity from their bench. The reserves finished with just 8 points on 2-of-11 shooting, as Nervens Demosthene was once against the only playing outside of the starting five able to contribute anything of note. The depth of this team was supposed to be one of their greatest strengths, but Cody John and Tyrell Green in particular have struggled mightily early. With a number of players on their way to join the team, they could both be looking at watching games from the press box.
While there have undoubtedly been some positives from the first two contests, the narrative remains from last season that these BlackJacks just can’t seem to put a full game together.
The biggest problem has been a lack of shooting. While the team succeeds when they drive to the basket and get penetration, they can’t get anything going from mid-range out. They rarely get looks from the outside in the flow of the offense, often getting closed out on when three-point plays are drawn up but still taking the contested shot anyway. Their inflated percentage from deep is thanks to players – mainly Adel – making tough shots, opposed to getting good looks.
Maybe the biggest bright spot on the team has been the emergence of Maxime Boursiquot. After finishing his collegiate career at the University of Ottawa, he has played his way into the starting lineup and been one of the best defensive players in the league. He was paired up against Dominic Green for the majority of the game and was a big reason for his poor shooting performance. On top of that, Boursiquot also contributed 12 points of his own, including a couple of threes. He has earned his spot on the team and then some and will almost assuredly keep his spot in the lineup over some of the veteran players when the rest of the team arrives.
Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see if any lineups changes are coming for Ottawa. Zena Edosomwan has struggled; Ryan Wright was a steadying force for the team off the bench all last year. Could he make his season debut soon? Shamiel Stevenson and Tyrell Green haven’t offered much; could Guillaume Pepin get a chance to make some noise?
Up next for the BlackJacks is the equally disappointing Scarborough Shooting Stars. They too have limped out to an 0-2 start, completely falling apart late in both games. While all eyes have been on international recording artist J Cole, they have a talent riddled team that is far better than their record indicates.
Cole played 15 minutes in his debut – in which he struggled, to say the least- and just 5 minutes in their most recent game. His notoriety obviously makes the team a draw, but one has to wonder how much longer head coach Chris Exilus is willing to play him in favor of more talented players.
We’ll find out the answer to that and oh so much more on Thursday night.