Throughout our training sessions leading up to Nationals we were very confident that this year’s New Brunswick U17 men’s team was a medal contender. With a win in our final game over our Atlantic Canada rival we would achieve that goal and improve on last year’s fourth place finish.
Unfortunately the bronze medal was not in the cards for us this year as we dropped our final game 83-67 to Nova Scotia.
For the third time in four games we started very poorly on offense shooting only 27% (6 for 22) in the first quarter. This game was even more frustrating than our semi-final game against Ontario because not only were we missing wide open scoring opportunities but many of the missed shots were layups. The saving grace for the first half, however, was our defense which held Nova Scotia to just 17% (3 or 17) in the 2nd quarter.
Nova Scotia led 30-27 at the half but like in the semi-final we headed to the locker room very positive because we knew we were getting good shots. The message at half time was to continue to grind out possessions by getting stops which could lead to transition baskets and eventually the shots will start to fall.
The third quarter was much more like the game everyone expected. Mainly because we started to make some shots and we were able to minimize our turnovers which had plagued us in the 1st quarter. We ended up playing the 3rd quarter even and considering the slow start, everything felt pretty good at this point.
The 4th quarter started much like the 3rd ended with us playing them evenly through the first 5 minutes. Then the wheels came off. Over the final 5 minutes Nova Scotia out scored us by 12 points and many of them came off wide open looks for Nova Scotia big man Alex Carson who finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
For the second year in a row we finish 4th in the country. If five years ago you were to tell that I’d be part of a provincial team that finished top 4 two years in the row I would have been pretty excited. I guess I need to keep reminding myself of that. The reality is, however, I’m disappointed that we were not able to win one of those last two games. I felt we were the better team in both games but obviously our opponents earned the right to say otherwise.
To be “disappointed” with a 4th place finish does speak well of where we are as a province. We are producing very talented players who have proven they can compete on the National level. I realize some of the large provinces are unable to field teams that include many of their top players because of popularity of club teams playing on the AAU circuit. But this doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of our teams. Those provinces have populations with millions of more people than we do here in New Brunswick. Heck, they even have cities with a higher population than all on New Brunswick.
This just proves that unless those provinces big their best they can not beat our best.