Randy Pascal for the Sudbury Star
Outscored 23-16 in the second quarter and trailing 56-45 at the half, the Sudbury Five were in need of something.
With a handful of calls not going their way and the visiting St. John’s Edge still hitting key three pointers at critical times, things were not looking a whole lot better midway through quarter three.
“We didn’t come out with a lot of energy — they seemed like they wanted it more,” said Kansas City, Mo. native Travis Releford of the Five. “We’ve got a team where anybody, any second, could step up and give us that boost of energy.”
In fact, there were several who were key to a Sudbury come-from-behind 116-111 victory over the Edge Monday on night at the Sudbury Community Arena.
Darting inside where the large bodies preside, Maurice Jones Sr. finished with a game-high 23 points, including a crucial turnaround jumper on an inbound pass with 1.4 seconds remaining in the third quarter, creating a huge four-point swing for the home side.
Coming off the bench, Cory Dixon (16 points) and Mamadou Gueye (17) were instrumental in draining shots in the second half rally. And while Braylon Rayson (18 points) did not enjoyable a particularly memorable night from beyond the arc, hitting just two of 12, a troika midway through the fourth was one of several key moments that turned things around.
Moments that included a thundering two-handed dunk by Releford, who ironically was likely at his most effective in providing some calm before the surge, as his team dealt with the frustration of a game that simply wasn’t going their way.
“That’s my role, to be able to keep everybody in control,” he said. “When the fouls are not going our way, some guys get out of line, sometimes even the coach. The refs will miss calls, that’s human nature, we just have to move along. We can’t continue to argue the calls.”
Thankfully, on this evening, the man who made it an even five Sudbury players in double digits with a 21-point performance had no trouble finding teammates who were more than happy to get things charged up at the old barn on Elgin Street.
“They threw a huge curve ball at us,” said Five head coach Logan Stutz. “A couple of guys sat tonight that we really game-planned against. We were almost lost, kind of searching, and it sucked the energy out of us. We got the crowd into it, we got the bench into it, guys starting feeding off each other.”
“We just had to get moving downhill, pushing the ball, get to the rim, kick out,” Stutz added. “And the guys had fun. That’s fun basketball. The energy comes off them having fun.”
A high-scoring opening quarter would see St. John’s holding a 33-29 advantage after 12 minutes of play, increasing the lead to double digits by the time the teams retreated at the half. While the early part of quarter three remained a struggle, the Five managed to chip away late, reducing the gap to just six heading into the final quarter.
With Isaiah Johnson limited to just a few minutes of play, the Sudbury rebounding effort would require a committee-like approach, as Cory Dixon and Devin Gilligan (eight each) and Rayson and Jones (seven each) were instrumental in allowing the locals to secure five more rebounds (46-41) over the course of the game than their opponents.
With the win, Sudbury bumped their season point total to 34, dead even with the Edge, two points back of the London Lightning and two points ahead of the Windsor Express. Though a playoff berth is not yet guaranteed, the team is believing in a system that could provide for some post-season success.
“I think we’re getting there,” said Releford. “Of course, there are things we need to continue to work on and get better at. But I feel if we come out with the same energy that we ended this game with, these fans, the best fans in the league, will give us even more energy.”
That, quite often, is just what this team is looking for.