Originally written by CODY WINNELL
THE best young basketballer Hamilton has seen for quite some time led Monivae Pistons to a division one premiership on Thursday night.
Tyrone Ross won most valuable player honours and top scored with 24 points in the Pistons’ 68-59 win over perennial bridesmaid St Mary’s Orange.
Ross, for the third week in a row, was given way too much space outside the arc and made the Saints pay with four big triples that wooed the crowd.
On top of that his electric little jazzy moves when controlling the rock bamboozled opposition guards allowing Ross to drive to the bucket, where he finished positively on a number of occasions.
Also on display was his pinpoint accuracy from midrange and his ability to force opposition ball-handlers into errors, while nabbing numerous steals with his quick and cunning hands.
Playing a huge support role for Monivae was the tall Will Blake who was clearly second best on court.
He gained the first block of the match, setting the standard for the rest of his night. He also hit two big triples and found the bottom of the net from inside the paint many times.
Blake’s performance on the biggest stage of the season was very impressive.
In all, bar a couple of Pistons whose nerves got the better of them, Monivae’s performance was brilliant basketball.
The veteran wily fox, Russell Robinson, was effective in rebounding contests and on hand to drain long-range Js if given an inch.
Meanwhile Ash Barr is the driving force behind lots of what the Pistons do. His control and influence over decision-making when Monivae’s in possession played a vital role in the team’s success.
For the Saints, Callum Kanoniuk was the standout.
He drove strongly all night, hit shots from everywhere, and provided contests on the boards with bigger, better-built opponents.
He and teammate Jason Muldoon gave 100 per cent all night long.
The latter was inspiring right up to the last second when he was still calling for the ball. In fact, Muldoon was unlucky not to score more points, as his teammates didn’t make the most of his strong positioning inside the key.
Other Saints players to play well in a fair-to-average team performance were Troy Kenny, Troy Elliott and Sam Brewer.
Brewer’s performance lifted tenfold after halftime.
Monivae controlled the first half, but it didn’t make the Saints pay on the scoreboard, only up seven at the break.
In fact to the Saints’ credit they forced a number of lead changes midway through the first half, but viewers felt that Monivae was still somewhat in control.
At 3.48 Russ Robinson hit a long-range two and then, up the other end, forced a Saints’ turnover. His brilliant burst was quickly put out though, when he shot an air ball from the top of the key.
But his hot run had inspired his teammates who lifted with Barr hitting a timely three-pointer right on the halftime siren.
It was clear the Saints and their coach Adam Jennings weren’t overly happy with the refereeing in the opening 20 minutes.
On more than one occasion in the opening period the call from the Saints’ bench was “FOUL!”
There were some things let go; but what do you call and what don’t you call? That’s the question.
Early in the second half Muldoon gave the Saints a spark – too bad nobody found him inside.
He was out-positioning smaller opponents and despite Ross’s brilliance, there was one occasion where Muldoon would have had a good chance scoring on him inside if a teammate had found him with a pass.
Elliott hit a long-range J to beat the shot clock in a photo finish, which opened the second-half scoring. The Saints were in town at this stage, just three down.
Two successful free throws to Josh Kearney settled Monivae, but Elliott responded quickly. He was playing well.
Monivae was able to hold onto its buffer, but when Troy Kenny drove and scored, and there was a whistle, the Saints’ fans were all smiles.
It went from chocolates to boiled lollies, however.
Kenny was judged to have charged his opponent on the way to the hoop, but the good news was the two points counted.
Scoring dried up for a while. When it resumed, though, it was still Monivae holding on to a five-point lead.
A technical foul on Elliott sent him to the pine for a compulsory five-minute spell with 10.06 remaining and Monivae was able to stretch its lead to 10 with a big triple to Todd Robinson.
Kanoniuk responded with his own long range three, and the Saints found a spark.
Ben Taylor got his first and only point for the night from a free-throw, before Muldoon went one-of-two from the line and the margin was just five.
Brewer then hit a huge three, bringing his fans in the outer to their feet and with 7.54 on the clock Kanoniuk drove, was fouled, and made the basket.
Monivae called a time-out, coach Nathan Manley desperate to settle his charges.
The message, in my view, should have been simple. Stop taking stupid shots, start getting the ball to Ross when he’s open, and start trying to work the ball inside.
Out of the break, Kanoniuk missed his free throw, keeping scores level.
Up the other end Blake was called for a blocking foul. The Bronx cheers from the crowd suggested all and sundry wasn’t happy with the call.
Monivae won the ball back though and Kieran Neeson put the Pistons back in front with a wonderful half-volley shot.
Monivae would pull clear once again and despite a couple of late rallies from Brewer, Kenny, Elliott and Muldoon, the Saints would fall short by nine points.