Two undefeated squads clash in Brantford with defending champs Orangeville remaining perfect to start the season. Though it wasn't the Bears best effort of the young campaign they were able to pull out the victory in hostile territory with an 80-70 win over RISE Prep.
This matchup between two titans of the OSBA began with a block by the biggest man on the court as Orangeville’s centre Joe Jones swatted the first attempt by RISE Prep. It was a defensive battle early with the RISE Prep Wolf Pack working together to stifle the offence of the Bears and their star forward Ignas Brazdeikis. Using their height and tough defence RISE went up 11-2 early and held Orangeville without a field goal until 3:25 remaining in the first quarter despite pressure from Brazdeikis.
Keshaun Saunders of Orangeville opened the second frame with a poster jam plus the foul to bring the Bears within one and give them a major boost to start the quarter. Orangeville used that momentum to build a 28-20 lead until a three by RISE’s John Akende broke the run. Brother duo Dawson and Brandon John executed together for the Wolf Pack, their hometown team based in Brantford but RISE just couldn't get their shots to drop though they kept giving themselves second chances. Vladimir Lukomski drilled a three for the home team but Wolf Pack entered halftime down 37-31.
"They went on their run to start out, they had home court advantage and we just knew that we'd be able to battle back," said Bears point guard Shemar Rathan-Mayes.
The brother duo of Dawson to Brandon for a jam opened play in the second half. Orangeville kept missing key blockouts and allowed RISE to stay in the game but Orangeville remained up by double digits. Orangeville’s Rathan-Mayes hit a three to keep it a double-digit lead for the Bears. Brandon Kenyon, the big man in the middle who just committed to IUPUI Jaguars in the NCAA, finished inside for RISE then got another offensive board and putback to bring the deficit back to single digits. Orangeville forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe finished a big dunk but played it cool and simply handed the ball to the ref as his Bears led 61-52 over RISE heading into the final frame.
Good ball movement by RISE allowed them to get the ball in the paint and bring the score within four points with under six minutes remaining. Brazdeikis struggled through a rare off night missing four straight to open the fourth but still finished with 16 points. Brandon John brought it within three after an and-1 as RISE was pushing but Joe Jones shut the door with a crucial block under four minutes left to keep his Bears up three. Orangeville kept finding a way to stay on top until finally Keshaun Saunders “with ice in his veins” hits a clutch three to put Orangeville back up by seven with 1:30 left, all but ensuring the victory. Saunders finished with a team-high 17 for Orangeville while RISE was led by 18 from Brandon John and 17 from Rahmir Moore. RISE just couldn’t get their shots to fall in the 4th and drop their first game of the season, 80-70 final score.
"It's only the beginning," Rathan-Mayes said after the game. "Last year we lost two games, this year we're trying to go undefeated so this was a good stepping stone."
Keshaun Saunders (6-5 G, 2019) - 17 pts
Ignas Brazdeikis (6-8 G/F, 2018) - 16 pts
Shemar Rathan-Mayes (5-11 PG, 2020) - 13 pts
Brandon John (6-10 F/C, 2018) - 18 pts
Rahmir Moore (6-5 G/F, 2019) - 17 pts
John Akende (6-1 PG, 2018) - 15 pts