Arun Kumar, Tyrell Vernon Help Knights Hand Badgers First NBBL Loss
Hamilton, ON – In the North of the Border Basketball League (NBBL) Featured Game of the Week, the Knights defeated the Badgers 73-61 led by Arun Kumar’s 21 points.
The victory was the fourth consecutive for the Knights (4-1) who have found their rhythm after an opening-game loss. While behind at times against the well-rounded Badgers, the Knights were able to shoot themselves back into the lead and execute down the stretch to give the Badgers (3-1) their first loss of the season.
Recent Toronto Varsity Blues grad, Arun Kumar’s hot shooting and ability to swing the ball to generate great scoring opportunities was emblematic of the team perspective. The Knights used a drive and kick offence, forcing the defence to collapse into the middle and kick out to open shooters.
“We have guys that can play off the dribble really well, breaking defenders down to find each other,” Kumar told NPH after the game. “We don’t care who scores the most points; whoever’s hot we go to them. We try to turn our defence into offence because we’re fast and a small team playing with four guards and one big so we push in transition and it looks like we live and die by the three but it worked today.”
The Knights were also led by St. Francis Xavier’s Tyrell Vernon who posted 17 points and seven assists, and the double-double from Zach Angelini of Waterloo with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Early in the game it was the Badgers who looked like the aggressor. Brock basketball star Tshing Kasamba opened the game with a three and a dunk and jumped out to an early lead with overall athleticism on display. The Badgers were missing Meshack Lufile, a 6’9” forward from Cape Breton University, but still had the edge physically over the Knights.
With the Knights trailing 43-34 at the half, they worked out a game plan in a team huddle that demonstrated their chemistry. Many of the Knights played together at St. Thomas More and all have known each other since high school.
“All of us have known each other for a long time and we know each other pretty well,” said Angelini. “We can criticize each other and it doesn’t get to our head.”
Kumar agrees saying; “We’ve played with each other in countless tournaments and we hand out together in downtimes so we know how to push each other and we know how each other plays, so it’s like family almost. I love playing with these guys.”
Kasamba and Rashed Morley, a 6’6” wing from Niagara College, continued to make the highlight reel with athletic plays but the Badgers’ lead was slipping. On this night they looked less cohesive than the Knights, but often had the size and versatility to compensate.
The Knights also took care of the rock, turning the ball over just six times compared to the Badgers’ 13 give-aways. Down the stretch the Badgers couldn’t get anything to drop, while the Knights were making hustle plays and getting better ball movement.
Zach Angelini drained a dagger three to put the Knights up 66-61 with 1:22 left and the game was sealed. “The competition level is better than expected,” said Angelini. “We have a whole bunch of CIS guys, CCAA guys, and every week it’s competitive.”
“Hamilton hasn’t been elite like this in a while so it’s good to see everybody come out,” said Kumar. “Guys that play college outside of province and the states to come back. There’s four, five, six very good teams in this league so every night is a good game”
“I grew up with these guys I’m playing with now on club teams and a lot of the guys are from Hamilton too so it’s nice for basketball and also socially too because you meet a lot of people you haven’t seen in a while and everybody gets together on Fridays so it’s a good environment, it’s fun.”
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NPH Top Performers Knights
- Arun Kumar – 21 pts, 3 reb
- Tyrell Vernon – 17 pts, 7 ast, 4 reb
- Zach Angelini – 14 pts, 10 reb
Badgers Tshing Kasamba – 18 pts, 7 reb, 3 ast
Scores From Around the League
Hamilton All-Stars 60 – Jayhawks 56
Crusaders 74 – Braves 51
Mohawk 73 – Burlington Elite 69
Jaguars 76 – Halton Region Stars 68