Georgian Bay rolls over St. Mary's 45-31
The Georgian Bay Thunder proved they’re the undisputed team-to-beat coming out of the North Division in the Bluewater Athletic Association’s senior boys basketball circuit with a 45-31 victory over the St. Mary’s Mustangs Thursday in Owen Sound.
The two top-ranked teams went head-to-head for bragging rights and playoff seeding with the Thunder outpacing the ‘Stangs for the win.
It’s the Meaford school’s sixth-straight win. Their only loss of the season came earlier in the year against the Mustangs.
The Mustangs finished the regular season with two losses, both at the hands of the Thunder.
Talk about a clash of the titans.
“It’s important that we’re the No. 1 seed headed into the playoffs, but we want to just keep the same mentality. Not get too up or too down. Just keep hitting the fast break, getting our shots, getting to the line and playing defence. That’s our thing,” said Thunder forward Griffin Almond.
It was the Thunder’s 3-2 zone and half-court trap defence that gave the league’s highest-scoring team fits all day. When St. Mary’s was able to move the ball and clear space in the lane, the length of the Thunder’s big-men caused for chaotic finishes at the rim.
As the Thunder pulled away, the Mustangs settled for shots on the perimeter, which Almond said played into their hands.
“We wanted to try and make them keep it to the outside, take long shots, and then get the ball and get up the floor fast,” said Almond.
In a game with so much on the line, with both teams battling for the top spot, it sure was ugly early.
Almond blamed the crawl out of the gate on a long exam break. Shots clanked off the rim and turnovers reigned as the teams struggled to get across half-court and set up their offence.
The Mustangs jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, but the Thunder roared back and led 9-5 at the buzzer.
Peter Ruest led the way for Georgian Bay with six points in the frame.
The Thunder widened the gap in the second quarter and held the Mustangs to only four points taking a 16-9 lead into halftime.
“Defence was for sure the biggest reason we won tonight,” said Almond. “We started the half-court trap last game against them and it helped again.”
The Mustangs came out of the gate hot in the second half. Riley Gordon scored four-straight points including a silky-smooth drive to the hoop to bring St. Mary’s back within a bucket.
They tied the game on their next possession as some nifty passing led to a clean look for big Talon Johnsen under the rim.
Just when it looked like St. Mary’s had the momentum, Tanner Almond snatched it back.
The Thunder guard walked up the floor and launched a three-point dagger deflating the comeback.
Georgian Bay then went on a bit of a run and finished the third quarter ahead 29-21.
St. Mary’s looked to claw back into the contest at the start of the fourth quarter. Lee Stephens and Cedric MacNay nailed back-to-back baskets to make it 29-26, but it’s as close as the ‘Stangs would get.
Ruest went hero-mode and wrestled the game away moments later.
The game’s high scorer nailed two triples in a row and then swiped the ball on defence leading to a Jack McCurdy layup.
“I love Petey,” Almond said. “That’s his shot, that’s what he practices. It’s his bread and butter.”
MacNay notched another three-ball for the Mustangs later in the quarter, but it was too little too late.
There is one week remaining in the regular season with teams in the South Division wrapping up their schedules. Playoff dates and matchups are still to be determined.
* An earlier version of this story confused Griffin Almond in both the article and photographs, it has since been updated.