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Men’s basketball playoff hopes dashed

Blues unable to hold late-game lead in thirteenth consecutive loss
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The Varsity Blues men’s basketball team closed the weekend with a heartbreaking 84–77 loss to the York University Lions at the Athletic Centre on Saturday. The loss followed a brutal 84–65 defeat against the Laurentian Voyageurs on Friday night. The Blues weekend results leave the team with a measly 2-14 record, and no chance of making the oua playoffs.

It was a tale of catching up for the Blues against York, who tied the game or drew to within a few points of the Lions several times only to see their opponents pull away. Toronto ended the first quarter trailing York 24–19.

At the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, the York Lions went on a 15–5 run that left the Blues staring at a 13-point deficit with less than nine minutes to go in the game. Such a lead seemed impossible to surmount, especially considering the Blues earlier inability to overcome the small leads the Lions held throughout the game.

The Blues, led by fifth-year guard Arun Kumar, went on an 18–4 run to tie the game and eventually take a 74–71 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the game. With all the momentum in their favour, it looked as though the Blues would finish the game with a win.

However, Toronto was unable to hold onto their slim lead, and the Lions closed out the game with a 14–3 run to improve their own poor record to 6–11.

When asked about what went wrong at the end of the fourth quarter, both Blues’ head coach Rick Dilena and Kumar pointed to turnovers, failed rebounds, and missed shots.

“We turned it over a couple of times. We just made a couple of bad choices. Unfortunately, a few times we didn’t rebound in key situations or we didn’t make shots in key situations,” said coach Dilena.

“We had a couple of costly turnovers at the end, and we had some wide open shots at the end, and we just missed them,” added Kumar. “They were shots we should have made, but just missed. They went on a run at the end of the game and we just couldn’t get back into it.”

“When a game gets tight like that you’ve got to execute, because one turnover can change the game.”

Against York, it was the failure to hold onto a late lead that doomed the Blues, but Dilena explained that the inability to seal games is not the Blues’ biggest problem.

“Right now we’re struggling. It’s not too often that we get a lead, so maybe that’s our problem, that we don’t know what to do with a lead. But we just want to win a game. We’re not too concerned with leads; we just want to win,” he said.

Despite all the negativity surrounding the Blues’ season — culminating Saturday in official elimination from the post-season — Dilena tries to see the positives, starting with the team’s improved play over the weekend.

“I thought we competed; we didn’t compete last night but we competed tonight,” said Dilena. “We were up three or four and we let them come back by turning it over a couple of times, but we did compete.”

The game had some bright spots, though, as Kumar recorded a career high 30 points on 10 of 23 shooting, including six three-pointers.

“He made some big shots — he is a guy that can make shots. He’s a guy that has that explosiveness. He was very good tonight,” commented Dilena.

Kumar, however, wasn’t as happy with his performance. “Being the leader on the team, I always feel I should have done more to lead our team to victory,” said Kumar.

The weekend’s losses eliminate the Blues from oua post-season play. Even if Toronto wins their remaining four games, they would finish in the standings tied with York who would advance based on the head-to-head record.

All the Blues can do now is close out the remainder of the season with improved play and look towards preparing themselves for next season.