Jaguars claw to victory in close cats’ court clash

SIGHTS SET HIGH: The Panthers’ Mustafa Sheheed goes for a lay up, leaping over Jaguars defender Zimbert Bramble, 4, as his co-defender Yassin Ismail, 0, looks on. The Jaguars managed a narrow victory, 39-35.

Down to the wire, A. Y. Jackson comes out on top in 39-35 thriller

In the final quarter of a North Region tilt, there was an over-saturating desire to pull down the prey for two predatory squads in senior boys basketball.

Victoria Park Panthers kept pace with A.Y. Jackson Jaguars for the entire game Nov. 28, never letting their North York rivals stray more than six points ahead.

It was an electric fourth quarter, with fans of both troupes raising the decibel levels of Vic Park’s gym as Panthers’ guard Daniel Theodore drained a three-pointer from teammate Jordan Burton to tie the game at 33.

Unfortunately, a physical game during the final minutes gave the Jaguars the edge at the free-throw stripe, resulting in a 39-35 tally.

“We played hard on offence,” Theodore said post game. “We could have played better on defence — bring more intensity.”

Still, Victoria Park coach Tyrell Smith is trying to emphasize the life lessons the game of basketball provides, especially in the squad’s season opener.

“It’s the home opener, so there’s a lot of excitement going,” he said. “I’m trying to keep my guys level-headed, to make sure they stay in the game and play their game.

“Our focus this season is to play as a team and to be consistent,” he said. “I’m trying to instill in these guys that basketball is a game but the more fun with you have with it, the better you’ll be.”

Though Burton only chipped in four points, he pulled down 11 boards, camping out under the Jaguars hoop. He also assisted on three buckets and forced three turnovers.

Teammates, Theodore and Mustafa Sheheed put up six and nine points apiece. Sheheed also pulled down six boards.

Scoring was evenly distributed amongst the VP starters and bench, but leading the way for the Jaguars was the tandem of Quincy Williams and Zimbert Bramble.

Williams netted 16 points while his teammate sunk 11, grabbed 10 boards and made like a thief on defence with six steals. The double-double for A.Y. Jackson’s man sporting the faux-hawk was a good result for his hard work.

“We came out strong and we kept our intensity up throughout the whole game, so we tried not to make too many mistakes,” Bramble said, sweat pouring down his temples. “We tried to keep our personalities positive.”

Williams said he was surprised by the Panthers’ zeal, but was pleased with his team’s response.

“Honestly we didn’t expect (Victoria Park) to come out with all the energy they did,” he said. “I think when we’re down we’re going to continue to fight.”

Jaguar coach Beth Spiegelman echoed her two leaders’ sentiments, and lauded Bramble’s tenacity at both ends of the hardwood.

“Some people really stepped up, and that was good to see of some of the kids who are in grade 11 do that because they didn’t have a chance to play junior last year,” she said, adding he is a natural athlete.

“He’s the only kid, when we’re running suicides, he smiles,” she said.

This will not be the last match up between the two. Victoria Park’s focus is unity, and Smith foresees the two squads will battle it out in tournaments and playoffs to come.

“We had a tournament with them last week,” he said. “It’s not a rivalry but it’s an understanding of good ball friendship.

“The sportsmanship between the two teams is wonderful because they’ve played each other for so long.”

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