By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 21 2017
A heartbreaking loss at home in the Kawartha A Championship title game isn’t taking away from the team’s effort and achievements this season said the Red Hawks head coach Paul Longo.
With just minutes left in the second quarter into the A championship final between the raucously supported Red Hawks senior boys’ basketball and the visiting St. Thomas Titans the game looked all but over with a 36-12 lead built from solid defence and seven three-pointers by Sam Longo and McKay Coneybeare who combined for 27 points outscoring their opponents.
That’s what makes losing 66-55 to the Titans all the more disappointing for fans and players.
However Paul Longo still believes in his team and wants them to remember there is another game.
“I’m proud of my guys. They’re wonderful boys and I can’t say enough about how hard they’ve worked this year. We don’t want the season to end on a sour note like this but it’s not over. We still have an opportunity next week to try and redeem it” he said. “Win or lose our first [COSSA] game next week that’s really not the issue. It’s more about playing hard and playing with integrity and playing for each other and giving it everything we got until the bitter end. I don’t care what the score is and I don’t care if we win or lose. Just Red Hawk pride.”
Longo loved the first quarter but admits his team didn’t respond to the Titans when they needed to but he credits the visitors for not giving up.
“We came out hot. We probably played our best first quarter of the year” he said. “Defensively we … fell apart. Give St. Thomas credit. They didn’t back down. They didn’t get down on themselves. They kept pushing it and then made it a decent game at the half” he said.
The Titans chipped away and took advantage of Hawks misses. With a little more than four minutes left in the second the visitors went on a 9-0 run and then kept adding to it as the Hawks shooting dried up. The Titans finished the half with a 14-2 run and were only down 11 points at the halftime break.
“I told our guys they’re going to go on a run. They will and they did. It was up to us to respond in the third quarter. We didn’t” he said.
It wasn’t until close to the midway mark of the third that the Hawks scored when Coneybeare sank a bucket on the drive to momentarily keep the red and white up by four points 40-36. It was only the Hawks’ fourth point in close to eight minutes. The junior basketball team from St. Thomas yelled in appreciation as the Titans senior squad tied the game at 40-40 with 3:40 to go in the third. The Titans run grew to 26-4. A reversal of fortune from the first quarter when Haliburton dominated to the delight of a packed partisan audience.
Although the Hawks reclaimed a lead of 45-42 late in the third it was short-lived. The Titans tied it up with a three pointer and then finished by doubling up on the Hawks in the second half and closed out the game 64-55. Haliburton only scored eight points in the fourth to the Titans’ 15.
It was apparent that the Hawks and their faithful believed the calls were one-sided favouring the Titans. Longo doesn’t want that to be focus of the game but said it did have an influence.
“I think we … I’m never going to blame the referees for anything. There were I think some questionable calls especially against Kyle [Cooper] and McKay [Coneybeare] there” he said.
Both players had combined seven fouls in the first half. They both fouled out in the fourth.
He adds having two of his starting five in foul trouble changes the nature of the game as far as coaching related to strategy and rotations.
“But no excuses. Give St. Thomas the credit. They came back hard and won the game” he said.
Coneybeare finished with a team high 20 points followed by Sam Longo’s 19 points.
Paul Longo said the “silver lining” of this game is that it seeds the teams for the single-elimination COSSA (Central Ontario Secondary School Athletics) tournament this week. Both teams will represent Kawartha A schools.
“Sure we lost the championship but we still get a second seed at COSSA and we have an opportunity to redeem ourselves which is nice to end on” he said.
Last year’s COSSA title winners Nicholson are likely to be the top seed from Quinte the Hawks’ opponents last season. Longo isn’t ready to concede anything whoever the opponents will be as Nicholson Catholic College has not been confirmed.
“You got to play the game. Anything can happen” he said. “If we play strong D like I know we can … we’re going to play the game and play hard.”
“It was a kick in the groin but we got to shake it off and get back at it [Friday]. Have a team meeting at lunch tomorrow and we’re going to air it out and we’re going to let it go. We’re going to get back at it on Tuesday and get ready for Thursday” he said after the loss referring to COSSA.