The early part of the basketball season is going to be all about learning experiences for the Chemainus Secondary School senior boys Cougars.
The Cougars played two games Saturday in their home gym against opponents of different levels and dropped both, but picked up some valuable lessons that should fuel improvement in the new year.
The first contest brought a 75-38 loss for the single-A Cougars against triple-A Esquimalt followed by a closer 45-37 result against Cedar, another single-A team.
Chemainus held it own during the first part of the Esquimalt game, leading 12-11 at the end of the first quarter and trailing just 27-21 at halftime. But it all came unravelled in the third quarter, as Esquimalt outscored Chemainus 28-3 for a commanding lead and never looked back.
The main reason for the turnaround was the Cougars wilted when Esquimalt applied intense pressure on the ball.
“They threw a front-court press on us and we haven’t practiced a press break yet,” pointed out Cougars’ coach Kyle Peruniak, who’s receiving assistance at the bench from Chemainus grad Sean Lefebure.
“The guys had to deal with it. That’s probably the quarter. We lost 15-20 points.
“I thought to that point we were definitely in the game. The defence is what we’re stressing right now.”
The Cougars had trouble on their in-bounds passing, resulting in numerous turnovers.
“We had over 40 turnovers,” noted Peruniak. “You’re never going to win a game when you have 20+ turnovers.”
Darius Thomas played a strong game in the losing cause. He was not only the leading scorer for Chemainus with 14 points, but played aggressively on the boards until the end.
That’s one thing Peruniak wants to see from his players is a determined effort no matter what the score.
“Even when we’re down 30 points, we don’t give up,” he said. “We’re still playing hard defence.”
Alex Loewe chipped in with nine points and Matt Simpson had six.
Esquimalt stayed on the floor for another game immediately afterwards against Cedar. Chemainus took a break and then went up against Cedar a few hours later.
Seen as a beatable opponent, Cedar came charging back on Chemainus for the victory in the late stages.
“It was disappointing,” conceded Peruniak. “We were leading for most of the game and we lost it in the fourth quarter.”
The lesson here is how to take command of a game in that situation.
“We’ve never played with the lead before and how to protect it,” observed Peruniak. “They managed to pull away in the last five minutes. It was a hard one to lose.”
Kota Sakakibara had the hot scoring hand for Chemainus, backed up by Loewe.
The good news is the team reduced its turnovers to a more respectable 14, but the team’s overall effort didn’t match the first game.
“If we had brought that intensity in the second game, I think we would have won it,” Peruniak indicated.