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MONCTON, NB - It was an interesting opening quarter for the A’s who took an early lead over the Miracles and held it throughout the entire quarter. They opted for a slower pace of play as they got settled into the game and their great ball movement was put on display with assists on over half of their field goals. Although not known for his 3-point shooting, Stefan Nastic’s play was huge in the first minutes, draining two 3-pointers (2-2 3PT FG) on his way to 9 first quarter points and 6 rebounds. Moncton was never too far behind but once Nastic stepped off the floor, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson took over the offensive load and blew the lead wide open. He poured in 10 points (3-4 FG) in short order and the A’s lead quickly grew to as much as 11 points. The Miracles managed to beat the buzzer with a deep 3-pointer to cut their deficit to 25-33.
The last second shot seemed to energize the Moncton side and the momentum gained propelled them into a 9-0 surge to start the quarter. The run gave the Miracles their first lead of the game and Melvin Johnson III (11p, 4-6 FG) was becoming a problem for the A’s defense. Nastic was able to put an end to the run once he was back on the floor but ball security was an issue in the quarter. With the mounting turnover issues, along with the Miracles finding their shooting stroke from behind the arc, the quarter became a back-and-forth exchange with neither side gaining much ground. However, with the size of Nastic and Daquan Cook (4p, 6r), the A’s dominated the glass to limit Moncton to a single shot, while they practically could not miss on the other end. Even their few missed shots down the stretch were aided by offensive rebounds and often converted for 2nd chance points. After exchanging 1-point leads for a long period, Moncton’s shooting would eventually go cold and they had to rely on the halftime buzzer to put an end to the Orangeville run.
After ending the first half with a 59-48 lead (12-0 run), the A’s were steadily taking control of the game. Their run didn’t end at the buzzer and the 2nd half continued the great showing by the A’s until that point. Another 10-4 run saw the A’s lead grow even larger and Moncton scrambled to get defensive stops. Despite shooting slightly over 40%, they allowed the opponents to shoot around 48% and consistently score over 26 points a quarter. The A’s had 4 different players score double-digits by the end of the 3rd and Hollis-Jefferson (20p, 8-13 FG) was a constant matchup nightmare. At one point holding a 19-point lead, the game looked well in hand with only the final quarter to play.
Heading into the 4th quarter with a 86-72 lead, the A’s left themselves significant room for error in the final frame. They would need that gap as the Miracles started the quarter with a run of their own, but luckily for the A’s their mishaps didn’t cause them to lose their double-digit lead until the final two minutes. Melvin Johnson III (20p, 9-15 FG) did his best to take over his team’s scoring responsibilities and Russel Byrd (23p, 7-15 FG) also provided valuable contributions in his time on the floor. In their final sprint towards the finish, they greatly improved their offensive rebounding and were finally able to generate 2nd chance points as they got as close as 3 points in the final seconds. The A’s remained composed however and Corbin Thomas calmly drained the game clinching free throws to pull though with a tough 114-109 victory.
By The Numbers:
- Crashing the glass: The A’s dominated the rebounding battle 60-42
- Starting Strong: Orangeville started the game with a 33-point opening quarter
- Long range: The A’s shot a strong 39% (13-33) from behind the arc, 7% above their season average