The high and lows of Nationals. All teams experience them and we’re no different.

Following our Friday night victory over Ontario there was a huge out pouring of positive energy from NB’ers here in attendance and back home following us online and through social media. Given Ontario’s success over the years at Nationals this is understandable but unfortunately led to a little over confidence for us heading into a match-up with Manitoba who were last year’s silver medalist from Canada Games.

Manitoba looks to be a medal contender again this year. They have great guard play and bigs that control the boards and finish extremely well. If we consider ourselves a medal contender this was the game to prove that. Unfortunately that was not the case.

The game started as most do with each team trying to dictate their style of play. For us the focus was on defending the pick and roll that Manitoba uses to get their big men touches deep in the paint. For the most part we accomplished this but on the offensive end we couldn’t knock down some great open looks. The 1st quarter end in a 13-13 tie.

In the 2nd quarter our shooting struggles continued especially since Manitoba was playing exclusively in a 1-2-2 zone. With the guys feeling reluctant to shoot they started to over pass and over dribble the ball which led to live ball turnovers and easy baskets for Manitoba in transition. On the defensive end Manitoba was slowly adjusting to our pick and roll defense which resulted in their bigs getting high percentage shots. As the half came to a close we found ourselves down 13 points and more than a little deflated.

In the second half we were able to find our defensive intensity which led to easier baskets. We also benefited from being in the bonus less than 2 minutes into the third quarter which resulted in the Manitoba big men spending more time on the bench than on the floor. At the end of three quarters Manitoba still had a 51-46 led but we definitely we were back in the game and it was anyone’s to win.

The 4th quarter started much like the 3rd ended with us getting stops and being able to run out for easier scores. In the first few minutes of the final quarter we were able to get their lead cut to a single point but  could never get that key stop or basket to go ahead. As the 4th progressed and Manitoba started to bring back their bigs who had been out with foul trouble, the game slowly got away from us.

In the end Manitoba wins the game by 16 points. We walk away felling like we can play with them, especially when we can get them into their smaller lineup but the challenge is doing a better job at getting their big men to to catch the ball in places they are less effective.

Tomorrow (Sunday) will be an off day for us with the tournament banquet later in the evening. The plan is to support the other NB teams playing important play-in games, scout our next opponent (BC or PEI) and rest our bodies prior to Monday night’s quarter finals.

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