Ottawa, ON – To be honest, one sequence in particular probably best summed up the BlackJacks’ performance at home during their 98-81 loss to the Scarborough Shooting Stars on Thursday night.
With just over seven minutes to go in the third, after cutting the Shooting Star’s lead to 50-47, the BlackJacks got a stop and turned the ball over on their next possession, which led to a Kameron Chatman three, before Deng Adel split a pair of free throws to make it 53-48.
On the ensuing Scarborough possession, Deng Adel checked JV Mukama with the ball at the three-point line near the Scarborough bench. Mukama sent it into the corner for Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who, thanks to a very late rotation from Chad Posthumous, blew by his right side. Seeing this, Bernard Thompson rushed off the three-point line to help defensively but left Jalen Harris completely unbothered and ready for a Rathan-Mayes kick out that he quickly knocked down for three to push the Scarborough lead to 56-48.
That, in a nutshell, described the Ottawa BlackJacks’ performance in their first-ever matchup with the Scarborough Shooting Stars. For every punch that the BlackJacks tried to throw, the Shooting Stars were there with a counter, often with a three-pointer that left the BlackJacks scrambling on and off the perimeter. By the time Xavier Rathan-Mayes knocked down the fifteenth three of the night for Scarborough to hit the Elam ending score, it was clear that, at least for now, the bottom of the CEBL conference is about where Ottawa belongs.
He only played 4:23 in the actual game, but from the moment the gates opened at The Arena at TD Place, all eyes were immediately on J.Cole.
As the clock neared 7:30 and tipoff, the seats filled out – for a total attendance of 3538 on the night – even just hitting a warmup jumper from Cole brought cheers from all sides of the arena. When he subbed in for the first time with 4:57 to go in the first, it brought the loudest cheer of the night, only bested two minutes later when he took a Rathan-Mayes feed in the corner, rose and (after a friendly bounce on the rim) dropped in a three-pointer for his second career CEBL basket.
Despite his celebrity status, Cole’s teammates have seen the 37-year-old truly take the opportunity to learn as a rookie in the league, even when his time on the court has been limited.
“It’s not often you get an A-Class celebrity trying to start over his whole career in a completely different field,” Scarborough forward Isiaha Mike said. “It’s almost like he’s a student of the game trying to learn as much as he can as a pro basketball player.”
It was a standout performance for Mike as the 24-year-old, who played two seasons at Saint Mary’s with the Huskies before spending 2020-2022 in Germany, picked up 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the scoring in the game. He also went 4/5 from deep as, for the second time in three games, the BlackJacks gave up over 40% shooting from beyond the arc.
“From the get-go, they made a lot early on, some of that was on us, but some of that was also tough shot-making cause we allowed them to get in a rhythm,” Ottawa head coach Charles Dubé-Brais said. “There’s that euphoria that teams go on when they start making shots, and everybody gets some, and they feel good about themselves.”
The Shooting Stars shot 7/11 from three-point range in the first quarter and ended up 28-16. A varied offence from Chad Posthumous, Deng Adel and Tyrell Greene and a much more aggressive defence got the BlackJacks back down 43-40 at halftime.
After halftime, though the BlackJack’s defence backed off again, Harris hit that three, and before they could blink, it was 73-56 with 2:50 to go in the third.
“I think it was a tough one; I think we kind of let it slip away; we’ve gotta take things personally, especially on the defensive end, guys gotta just lockdown and guard our yard,” BlackJacks forward Maxime Boursiquot said.
The 2022 OUA Defensive Player of the Year, Boursiquot, is more than well aware of the effect that the BlackJacks’ struggles on defence can have on the rest of their game.
“It all starts with defence; if we can get some stops, get some contests, get out and run, I think things will start to turn around for us.”
The BlackJacks cut the lead to 74-63 into the fourth but couldn’t keep up as Scarborough entered the Elam ending up 89-78, and thanks to three consecutive fouls by Ottawa giving them six points, they only needed one Rathan-Mayes shot to end it.
In his post-game, coach Dubé-Brais put it best because it’s almost a chicken and egg scenario for the BlackJacks.
“There’s a level of confidence that comes only with winning, so I think when that comes, we’ll start to feel that, and a few breaks will go our way,” Dubé-Brais said.
More often than not, it’s the confident teams that win, but it’s challenging to gain that confidence if you haven’t won yet.
It’s a complex scenario to be in as a coach; thankfully, for him, there are still enough games left to find the answer.