‘We’ll take it’: Sask. Rattlers win a close one over Brampton Honey Badgers

Saskatchewan Rattlers guard Justin Wright-Foreman, right, holds the basketball as Brampton Honey Badgers guard Koby McEwen defends during the second quarter of CEBL action at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Sask., on Monday, July 17, 2023. PHOTO BY HEYWOOD YU /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

by Darren Zary

The Saskatchewan Rattlers needed that win Monday night to stay alive in the Canadian Elite Basketball League playoff hunt.

It was close.

Geez, it was ugly.

It was, at times, controversial in terms of some rather inconsistent officiating against both teams.

“I don’t care how ugly it was — I’ll take it,” said Rattlers interim head coach Tanner Massey, whose team led the visiting Brampton Honey Badgers for most of the night but couldn’t pull away.

The final score was 86-84 for Saskatchewan, which improved its record to 7-10 while Brampton slipped to 6-10.

The Rattlers return to action Wednesday when they play host to Vancouver Bandits (5-10), who will be hosting this year’s CEBL championship weekend and automatically make the playoffs.

“The clock is clicking — literally we play in another 30-32 hours,” said Rattlers guard Justin Wright-Foreman, who set a franchise record with 39 points Monday to go along with four rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot.

“It’s bounce-back season for us. We didn’t have a good start (to the season), but it’s time for a good finish.”

Saskatchewan led 26-21 after the opening quarter, 47-44 at half-time and 68-63 after three quarters but the Rattlers allowed the Honey Badgers to hang around thanks to eight successful free throws down the stretch.

“A ton of resiliency,” Massey said of his team. “I don’t think I coached a very good game — I’m my hardest critic — especially in the second half. But we came out with the win. Our guys fought. I thought our offence had a little more fluidity in that. Our defence, we answered the call pretty well with their guards; we could have been a little more aggressive in my opinion. I thought we did a decent job of containing one-on-ones, especially in Elam (ending target-score session). We were super active. We were able to chest the ball and contest it in the end.

“Right now, a ugly win but stats are for losers — we’ll take the win any day.”

Michael Nuga had 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot on Monday night for Saskatchewan. Anthony Tsegakele added 12 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot.

Adong Makuoi and Quenton DeCosey each recorded eight points with Makuoi adding five rebounds, one assist and a blocked shot. DeCosey had three rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot.

Zane Waterman and Christian Vital tallied 22 points apiece for the Honey Badgers. Prince Oduro added 15 points and Koby Mcewen had 12 points for Brampton, which had a 53-38 edge in the rebounding department with Waterman hauling down 17.

The Rattlers shot 47 per cent from the field compared to 38 per cent for the Badgers.

The Rattlers have three games remaining, two of them at home against the Bandits on Wednesday and Calgary Surge (8-8) on July 28  in the second game of a home-and-home series with huge Western Conference playoff implications. The Rattlers will also head to Calgary to play the Surge there this Saturday.

“The mind-set is still the same — we’re going to come out in every game and we’re going to try and be the more physical team — I say ‘try’ now, but, obviously, in the game, we’re going to do it,” said Wright-Foreman.