Upset City: Femi Morawo Comes Clutch as Bishop O’Byrne Takes Down NPH #9-Ranked Winston Churchill
CALGARY, AB–Bishop O’Byrne Bobcats head coach Kurt Luttmerding is almost at a loss for words when it comes to explaining his team’s early season success.
Fresh off an 81-68 upset victory over Winston Churchill, (NPH #9 Nationally Ranked) in the final of the Calgary Basketball Classic pre-season tournament, the Bobcats moved from the ‘maybe’ to the ‘absolutely’ in the ‘will they contend this season’ category.
It’s not like the Bobcats weren’t given credit coming into the tournament considering their No. 2 provincial ranking, but it’s how they played against a talented & very skilled team that opened more than a few people’s eyes.
Even those within the Bobcats’ camp didn’t think they’d be at this level this soon.
“This team continues to amaze me,” said Luttmerding. “From where we thought we were going to be to what we’re doing, it’s pretty awesome.”
Coming into the final all the talk was about the Bulldogs, and rightfully so. They easily made their way through the first three rounds of the bracket. They possess the two most talked about high school players in the league in Adonis Monfort-Palomino and Emmett Cook, and the rest of their team can run with the best of them as well.
But the Bobcats shut all of that down Saturday night, literally. They held the Bulldogs to the worst shooting percentage they’ve had in this young season, and it likely will never be as low again for the remainder of the season.
Monfort-Palomino did his job, pushing the ball up the court at a blazing fast pace and finding an open man for an open look at the basket. That’s where the Bulldogs scoring machine stopped on this night as shot after shot bounced off the rim and into the hands of a waiting Bobcats rebounder.
The Bobcats’ tenaciousness was evident on both sides of the court. As off as the Bulldogs’ offence was on this night, the Bobcats had a bad night of shooting as well. But it’s what happened after the shot was missed that made the difference, especially in the fourth quarter.
Bishop O’Byrne forward Femi Morawo took complete control of his team’s offence in the final quarter, scoring 15 of his game-high 25 points, many of which came off second-shot opportunity buckets thanks to some shifty offensive rebounding and clutch put-backs.
Guard Garret Ladell added 16 points and forward Brandon Van Hal chipped in with 15 points to help lead the Bobcats’ scoring.
Grade 10 guard Derian Valdes scored a team high 19 points for the Bulldogs and Monfort-Palomino added 14 points.
The Bulldogs held the edge early in the game. Both teams started off shooting poorly but Churchill held the advantage thanks to being slightly more aggressive attacking the basket which led to a 14-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The game seemed to be heading towards another convincing Bulldogs victory as the second quarter got underway. Midway through the second quarter they had stretched their lead to 22-15 and appeared to be frustrating the Bobcats’ offence, who were really struggling to find its rhythm.
But the Bobcats’ defence dug in their heels and came up with big stops to keep the Bulldogs from building up a significant lead. The effort paid off, and their offence picked up just enough to slowly chip away at the lead.
The two teams went into the halftime break tied at 30-30.
The back-and-forth play continued throughout the third quarter and midway through the fourth, which is when the tenacity of the Bobcats started to wear on the Bulldogs.
With 7:10 to play in the game Bulldogs’ guard Matthew Guinto nailed a three pointer to bring the score down to a 65-64 Bobcats lead, setting up the tipping point of a game that could have gone either way at this point.
That’s where the Bobcats’ defence went into complete shut-down mode, holding a Bulldogs offence that averaged 105 points through the first three games of the tournament to a lowly four points in the final seven minutes of a tournament final.
Those final seven minutes also belonged to Morawo, who scored 10 of his 15 fourth quarter points in a span of five minutes to help secure the tournament victory for the Bobcats.
“The fourth quarter is what matters most to me, it’s the end of the game and you put in all or nothing,” said Morawo. “I just tried my best and I got some points.”
“We talk about the weak-side offence, when someone shoots just crash the weak side and it just always works for me. You just look at where the ball is going to bounce and put it back in, easy two points.”
According to Luttmerding, they knew they had a potential difference maker in their grade-11 guard, it’s just that they didn’t think he’d show up this early in the season and completely dominate at a critical time like he did against the Bulldogs.
“Femi was unbelievable,” said the coach. “We knew that he was good, but we didn’t think that he was that much of a game-changer.”
“Our mantra is defence, defence, defence and run. We try to wear teams down and I think we wore them down a little bit. They were cold shooting from outside, but we were cold free-throw shooting (33 per cent in the first half).”
Morawo himself didn’t exactly expect his team to come out and upset the Bulldogs either, seeming almost surprised after the game that his team managed to pull off the win.
“I came here scared because they’re Churchill and ranked ninth in the country and we’re just O’Byrne, a little small school,” said Morawo. “We came in here and I thought we were going to lose for sure but we didn’t give up, played with a lot of energy and we took the win. ”
But the Bobcats proved that when they bring the total team concept to the floor like they did on Saturday night they’ll be hard to beat. The trouble for the coaching staff will be how to keep their players motivated to bring that much energy all the time.
“The negative about winning is we don’t want the guys to be satisfied so we’ll probably be harder on them than we would have been if they would have lost and had that motivation,” said Luttmerding “It’s nice to have early success though. The confidence is sky high and we thought that at the end of the year we’d be at this level. We’re happy we can build on this.”
Luttmerding and his Bobcats can now focus on the season feeling good about where they’re at as a team. They know that if they play as a unit and consistently bring their top-notched defensive game they’ll be able to run with anyone.
“We don’t have the super stars, we know we have to play D, and the players know that if they don’t play D they’re not playing,” said Luttmerding.