Yasmeen Smith may carry an innocent smile, but don’t expect to see it when the buzzer sounds.
Perhaps that’s the mentality that allowed her to dominate the Niagara Knights on Wednesday evening, as the Cambridge, Ont. native tallied 16 points and 29 rebounds to help her Centennial Colts stage a 53-48 comeback victory during preseason play.
The home team used a clear size advantage in their resurgence, swooping in for loose balls and generating second-chance opportunities in bunches.
Much of the damage stemmed from the activity level inside by Smith, something she says head coach Justin Bobb expects from her each time she steps on the court.
“[He tells me] to be aggressive as soon as I step on the court, to rebound, make baskets and to be supportive on and off the court,” said Smith, who averaged 14.4 points-per game last season for the Colts as a rookie. “But I think everybody contributes in their own way as a team.”
Despite carrying a clear rebounding advantage, Centennial struggled to convert on easy looks inside early on, leading to a flurry of transition opportunities for the Knights’ two-headed duo of Courtney Kilyk and Mary Ingribelli. The tandem took advantage of careless passing by the Colts in the first half, forcing turnovers and scoring effortlessly on uncontested layups.
But it was the fourth quarter where fortunes turned for Centennial. Led by a throng of screaming supporters, the Colts were able to forge a thrilling come back in the late stretches of the game, edging out Niagara 16-14 in the final ten minutes and earning the five-point win.
The Knights were unable to get their fast-paced transition game going in the final frame, mostly due to the Colts shrewd perimeter adjustments which included closing the driving gaps that hindered them in the first half.
Though Centennial was able to rally back in the fourth and mitigate their turnovers while doing so, Bobb wasn’t pleased with the sloppy play in the first three quarters, particularly the unforced miscues that led to a string of baskets for Niagara.
“We’ve got to value the ball,” he said. “We’re still turning over the ball sometimes when we should be more comfortable with it.
“On the defensive end, I still think we put Niagara on the line a bit too much for my liking. I’d like to see us cutting guys off before they get to the rim and limit their [number] of free throws and free layups.”
The Colts certainly have some work to do on both ends of the floor, but if one thing stood out in their victory over the Knights it was the sheer hustle and work ethic they displayed for the full 40 minutes.
— CentennialCOLTS (@CentennialCOLTS) September 27, 2017
Led by Smith and veteran guard Bethany Miller, the Colts look to be in good hands this season, and if Wednesday’s performance was any sort of indicator then it looks as though they’ll have an opportunity to contend for the OCAA (Ontario Colleges Athletic Association) championship.
“You saw them, they’re ready to go,” said Bobb. “They’re ready to go.”