You almost had to be there to know how rough a start the Ottawa Gee-Gees had in their 93-67 comeback win over St. Francis Xavier tonight at the Jack Donahue Memorial Tournament. They couldn't get a good look, fell down 18 points after nine points, but lo and behold, blew the X-Men out across the final three quarters in a faith-restoring win for Dave DeAveiro's retooling team.
The team leaders, 6-foot-8 post Dax Dessureault (22 points) and lead guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe, each put up 22 points. What was really striking was how the other, less-known personalities blended in, especially youngsters such as Bojan Dodik and Vlad Pislaru, who each came off the bench to hit a couple big three-point shots.
For a team that lost four of the top seven scorers off last season's team that went to the semi-final at the CIS Final 8 men's basketball championship, the Gee-Gees are coming together very well. They played very well and on this night, exposed X as a talented (and quick!) team that maybe hasn't figured out how to put all of their dominant personalities together. Some basketball teams are kind of like a band; if the roles aren't clear, they can end up becoming a group of individuals. That seemed to happen with X last night. In fairness, coach Steve Konchalski was absent, plus it was almost 10 p.m. Atlantic time by the tip-off time, since the Gee-Gees women's volleyball game went five sets.
Dessureault, as previously noted, has been a relevation. It's like his body just caught up to a very spry basketball brain, which is huge to have in a big man on a team that looks like it wants to turn games into track meets -- he fires the outlet pass very well, and kicks out the ball smartly in the half-court. Bigs who play with an understated grace to their game -- scoring on layins and soft hooks instead of trying to dunk, getting blocks and altering shots on the defensive end by barely jumping are always fun to watch. Dessureault got the better of X's Brazilian import Islam Luiz Toledo, who I've posted on over at The CIS Blog, particularly early in the third quarter when he faked him into jumping and glided in for an easy layin.
(Toledo, though, by CIS standards, is a freak of nature.)
Donnie Gibson, the Gee-Gees' Amherstview assassin, had 11 points in a 20 minutes, going 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. He was in the thick of the 11-0 run at the end of the first half that put the Gee-Gees ahead for good. On successive sequences he got a tough second-chance basket, then his dogged work trying to get a rebound led to X's Daouli Lengma commiting a travelling violation. That led to a basket that cut X's lead to five, then Gibson hit a three-ball from the right corner. Gibson was forced to the bench after taking his third and fourth fouls 19 seconds apart less than four minutes into third quarter, but that's all part and parcel of him being a more assertive player.
This was the only chance to see the Gee-Gees in person this weekend. The phrase "flying under the radar screen," overused in reference to the Senators last season, will probably be applied to Ottawa this season. They showed quite a bit tonight, though.