Short-staffed Wellington edged by Hamilton

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Help is on the way for Wellington BC.

Playing with seven players again, the locals dropped a 106-99 decision to Hamilton in Canadian Basketball League play Sunday night at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre.

“It’s tough,” Wellington guard Pannell said of playing with a short bench. “We just have to play smart, a lot smarter because we only have a seven-man rotation right now. That’s the key, No. 1, and saving our legs so we have the energy to finish the game out. It’s kind of tough with seven men, but we’ve got what we’ve got and we’ve just got to handle our business now.”

Wellington expects to have 6-foot-5 forward Manny Thomas in the lineup when the team takes to the floor at the Toronto Pan Am Athletics Centre for a match against league-leading Scarborough Saturday night. Wellington obtained Thomas from Durham United for future considerations.

Wellington also expects to have two more players arrive in time for that game and will also have a new head coach in place soon as the search for a replacement for Butch Carter nears its end.

“I would think it will last no more than a week,” Carter said of getting his replacement. “We have a short list already. The reality of it is that my responsibilities to the league are far greater than me being on the sidelines. And it’s not fair to the players that I can’t be at practice every single day to progress them to where they need to be. I said it was interim and my partner is emphatic that it is interim because there are other stuff we need to work on.”

Carter is founder and the league’s CEO.

Sunday, Wellington squandered an early lead and couldn’t regain control of the game after that. The hosts were up 27-23 at the end of the first quarter before Hamilton shot ahead 46-42 by halftime. Hamilton led 72-67 at the end of the third quarter.

“We got a little behind with the free throws putting them into bonus early,” Carter said. “Then Jody (Hill) showed up like he hadn’t shown up in the last three games. I had four names on the board that we needed to accept the challenge – Jody, Troy Taylor, (Mason) Archie and (Chris) Carter. Three guys we did a pretty good job on, but he was making threes that normal human beings don’t make and we couldn’t get him to where he was uncomfortable.”

The game was one that Wellington could have won.

“Yeah, like many others,” Pannell said.

In order to get over the hump and start winning more, Pannell figures the team needs to get a little better under the baskets.

“Basically, we need to focus in on defence a little bit more. Right now what’s hurting us is rebounding,” he said. “Right now we’re kind of struggling with rebounding and that’s one of the things we need to clean up to be able to win some of these games.”

Wellington lost some height when 7-foot centre Zech Smith returned to the U.S. a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, Wellington preferred to do most of its shooting from outside the paint, but struggled to sink its three-point shots. The locals converted nine of 24 shots from beyond the arc for a 38 per cent average. They also missed 11 of the 29 free throws they took and turned the ball over 17 times.

“We blew some foul shots that we normally make and that we should make in order to win a game,” Pannell said. “It’s kind of one of those games. You’ve got to learn from it. It’s tough losing like that because we were right there.”

“That FIBA ball bounces a little different, I swear it does,” coach Carter said. “Sometimes it’s like watching Keystone Cops running around. They’re really good human beings, but right now they need to show more fortitude to beat the teams we’re playing.”

Hamilton’s numbers weren’t outstanding as the visitors could have been beaten. They shot 43 per cent (42 per cent on three-pointers) and 66 per cent on free throws as they missed 12 of 35.

Pannell led Wellington with 25 points while Devon Scott had 23, Jeremiah Williams 16 and Dominique Wallas 14. Scott grabbed 14 rebounds and Walls 11 while Isiah Thomas had two blocks and two steals.

Hill turned in a 33-point outing for Hamilton while Archie netted 20, Carter had 19 and Taylor collected 16. William Thompson had 10 rebounds in 17 minutes of play before he fouled out while Hill had five steals.

Unofficially, Scarborough leads the league at 11-2 and is followed by Durham at 7-4, Hamilton at 4-8 and Wellington at 2-10.

Next home game for Wellington is an afternoon tilt on Family Day (next Monday) with Durham. Game time is 1 p.m.