After chalking up just one win in their opening ten games before Christmas, the Cambrian College men's basketball team embarked on the second half of the 2010-2011 campaign on the weekend.
The Shield found themselves minus a couple of bodies Sunday afternoon facing the Centennial Colts, the Cambrian boys appeared no worse for wear. Five players reached double digits as the Shield dumped the visiting Colts 86-78 in a game in which the homeside held a 15 point lead (80-65) with less than four minutes remaining.
A frantic Centennial rally was eventually subdued thanks to late baskets from Paul Mendonca and Mike Costello, as the locals avenged an 88-80 loss in late November to the Colts.
With a record of 2-9, Cambrian still has plenty of work ahead to make the playoff race, but a victory over the sixth place Colts (4-8) is encouraging, with six teams advancing to the post-season.
Timmins native Josh Budd led the Cambrian scorers for a third consecutive game, netting 26 points while Alain Monyele (21), Costello (16), Mendonca (12) and Jason Miller (10) helped contribute to a balanced Shield attack.
“We lost a few guys from the first semester, but I think we bonded together during this week's practices," Cambrian head coach Brad Hann said after the game. "I think we were able to exploit the inside. I wanted to get all of our shots, especially early, from inside the key. Our shooting percentage has not been that great, so I thought it would be better if we could get ourselves some baskets from in close and from the free-throw line."
However, Cambrian did manage to nail six shots from beyond the three-point arc, with Budd, Costello and Monyele hitting for a pair apiece.
With the Shield not scheduled to resume league play until Jan. 21 when they travel to Algonquin, Hann said he is aware there is no lack of areas that require improvement moving forward.
"It's tough, because if you focus too much on one thing, then another thing suffers," he said. "We sort of balance our practice doing everything, but the priority is always to take care of the defensive end of the floor."
With two years of CIS experience already under his belt with the Ryerson Rams, Josh Budd is looking for a much better second half, though he has yet to doubt his team's ability to compete.
"We knew that if we just worked hard, we have enough talent to get a few more wins," said the graduate of the highly successful Timmins High & Vocational School Blues program.
"It's not hard to get better than that first half," he added with a smile. "A lot of guys put in some work over the Christmas holidays, myself included, and it was great to see that."
Budd said there are three areas the team could improve on. "Turnovers were our Achilles heel in the first half of the season — you're not going to beat any team with 20-plus turnovers — rebounding, and then just shot selection, making sure we're taking good shots, quality shots."
As noted above, Cambrian will enjoy one weekend off, before heading to Ottawa to face Algonquin and La Cité on Jan. 21 and 22. The team is back on home court at the end of the month, battling the Loyalist Lancers and Durham Lords on the Jan. 29 and 30 respectively.