The mood was subdued, a few heads were hanging, and customary post-game handshakes were scaled back to a minimum.
Based on the player reactions, if you hadn’t watched the previous 40 minutes of gameplay, you would have never guessed who just suppressed a massive comeback to grind out a four-point victory.
Although a win is a win, some taste a little less sweet than others.
The Capilano University Blues clung to the last remnants of 17-point halftime lead to hold off the Douglas College Royals 76-72 on Saturday, November 9 at Capilano’s Sportsplex in North Vancouver.
The coach echoed his players’ temperament.
“I was really disappointed. I thought we had taken some good steps last night, in terms of learning how to play with a more consistent effort, but I think we regressed tonight,” said Blues bench boss Dwayne Selby.
“Right now, we take plays off and we take possessions off and we’ve become complacent. Tonight we come out and we get up big at halftime, and then complacency sets in again. Right now we have to get back to the basics and focus on getting our guys to play every possession and finish games.”
The narrow victory, coupled with a 13-point loss on the previous night to Langara College, leaves the Blues unusually disappointed. Given the parity around the league, the supposed powerhouses have been lucky to split their pair of weekend tilts so far.
And for Douglas, it was the best 0-2 weekend a team could have.
“I was actually surprised that we clawed that far back,” said Royals head coach Denis Beausoleil. “I wasn’t sure if we’d actually be able to make it as close as we did. But once we got it down to seven, I thought we were going to give ourselves a chance to come back.”
The Blues came out in full force during the first quarter, trapping Douglas in the halfcourt and forcing the young Royals to commit turnover after turnover, en route to a 31-18 at the end of the opener. Douglas stayed closer than they should have due to timely threes from Ethan McKean and Andy Kaila.
In the second frame, Capilano’s lead ballooned to as much as 22 points, but Douglas again managed to hang around, only being outscored 22-18 in the quarter.
Then the second half started, and both teams’ fortunes completely reversed.
Capilano started succumbing to Douglas’ trapping defense, went an ice-cold 0-8 from the three point line, and the Royals began to roar back to life.
A 17-2 run by Douglas cut Capilano’s lead to just 65-60 as they entered the final 10 minutes, and then a three from Andrew Baron at the seven-minute mark cut the deficit to just one possession.
Capilano’s players should have been working at Three Mile Island, because somehow they managed to prevent a complete meltdown, continuously having an answer for every Douglas bucket.
The play of the night came about midway through that final quarter, as Blues guard John Leong drove baseline, turned back over his shoulder as if to pop back out to the perimeter, and then drove again into the baseline, leaving his defender seemingly stuck to the hardwood.
But instead of cramming a one-hander over Patrick Ewing, he elected to go for the easy deuce off the glass.
The score remained tight up until the buzzer, as Capilano was up three with just 12.4 seconds remaining. They had the ball ready to be inbounded on the sideline in the frontcourt – hoping to get it to point guard Tony Rowe so that he could ice it from the line. But they couldn’t get it in to anyone, and turned the ball over with a five-second violation.
Douglas had one last shot to steal the win, but McKean came up empty from deep due to immense pressure by the Blues.
It wasn’t the prettiest of last-second plays, and Beausoleil was frank when describing what he would’ve liked to see done differently by his squad.
“A little bit of a better screen, a cleaner catch, and a better shot.”
For Selby, that final possession was a bit of silver lining, as his team’s lockdown defense – which had disappeared for the bulk of the second half – came back when it mattered most.
“When I took that final timeout, I said ‘Hey this is good for us, we’ve got to learn how to play in close games like this. We’re struggling. Things aren’t going our way, and now we’ve got to lock down on defense to get the win.’”
“We’ve got to get a game early in the season that we have to grind out and win when things aren’t going our way,” he added.
Michael Hunter led the Blues in scoring for the second-straight game with 13 points, while Rowe and rookie forward Andrew Morris added 10 each.
Baron was high-scoring Royal, notching a near triple-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Capilano now sits at 2-1 on the year, while Douglas drops to 0-3.
“We didn’t win this weekend, but we played some of the better teams in the league,” said Beausoleil. “It would’ve been nice to get the wins because anyone can beat anyone in this league. But I am encouraged, and I think if we just keep improving that we’ll be okay for the playoff mix.”
“When we get back to the basics of how we were playing in the preseason and earlier in the year we’ll be a lot better,” said Selby.
“I’m really happy with our team. I think we have guys that are hungry and that want to win, but I’m just not sure that they know how to win quite yet.”
The Blues travel to the island next weekend to take on Camosun and VIU, while Douglas stays at home to host CBC and Kwantlen.
NPH TOP PERFORMERS
- Michael Hunter: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
- Tony Rowe: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
- Andrew Morris: 10 points, 2 rebounds
- Andrew Baron: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals
- Grant Campbell: 15 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
- Ethan McKean: 12 points, 3 rebounds