Under the Boards
Week-in-Review: – The Canton Charge had avoided adversity for much of the 2012-13 season, but as the playoff push begins to unfold, Steve Hetzel’s squad will have to navigate some stormy waters.
The season is down to its final seven games – six of which the Charge will play on the road, starting with Saturday’s matchup in Springfield, Canton’s last meeting with the Armor this season.
That final stretch would be a daunting task for the team that led the East Division through most of the campaign. But it gets that much tougher for Hetzel and his staff as they hit the road with a reshaped roster. Four of their five starters from a Feb. 28 win in Maine are either in the NBA, injured or no longer with the team. Canton hits the road missing their top three scorers.
A trio of players has been called up to the NBA over the last month. Shane Edwards and two-time All-Star Arinze Onuaku signed 10-day deals with the Cavs and Jorge Gutierrez inked his second 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. All-Star forward Kevin Jones bought out of his D-League contract to sign with the San Miguel Beermen of the Philippine Basketball Association.
Onuaku returned to action for Canton, but fractured his orbital bone during the second quarter of last Tuesday’s loss to Sioux Falls. He’s been limited to noncontact work and will likely wear a mask upon his return to live action. The Charge also lost Gilbert Brown, who took a knee to his head while diving for a loose ball last Friday night and was later diagnosed with a concussion. He missed Saturday’s game against L.A. and is listed as day-to-day and could be cleared to play again as soon as tonight.
With the roster in flux, the Charge dropped three straight for the first time since December – including a pair to the high-octane L.A. D-Fenders, who dropped 255 combined points on Canton at the Civic Center last weekend.
On Friday night, L.A. ran out to a 21-5 lead and didn’t look back, canning five three-pointers in that opening salvo and three more before the quarter ended. The D-Fenders upped their lead to 26 in the second quarter and took a 71-56 edge into the locker room.
Canton used an 8-0 fourth-quarter run to cut L.A.’s lead to single-digits, but the D-Fenders’ relentless attack was too much for the shorthanded Charge, who dropped their second straight.
Sergey Karasev led Canton with 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting, adding nine boards in 34 minutes of action. Will Cherry added 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and Steve Weingarten chipped in with 16 points in 19 minutes off the bench. Five D-Fenders finished with 15-plus points in the win.
On Saturday night, the Charge and D-Fenders were back at it before a sold-out crowd at the Memorial Civic Center.
But once again, L.A.’s high-powered attack was too much for Canton (25-18), which kept the D-Fenders in check in the first period but saw them use a 16-0 second-quarter run to open a double-digit advantage. Los Angeles kept it rolling after intermission, shooting 61 percent from the floor, including 60 percent from long-distance, netting 76 second-half points and pulling away with the 130-98 win.
Olek Czyz led the Charge with his second double-double of the season, tallying 14 points and a season-high 15 boards. Newcomer Kyrylo Fesenko chipped in with 12 points and Canton’s bench combined for 51 points in the loss.
Did You Know: Of the four players Canton lost recently to call-ups and a buyout – three were at least one-time D-League All-Stars (Arinze Onuaku, Shane Edwards and Kevin Jones) and one was an All-Defensive First Teamer last season (Jorge Gutierrez).
They Said It: “It’s like training camp all over again, what happened is what’s supposed to happen. Guys moved up and moved on, and now we have to figure it out.”
-Charge Head Coach Steve Hetzel on working with a changing roster on the fly
Stat of the Week: Over the last three games, Canton’s second unit is averaging a combined 45.6 points per contest.
Look Ahead: – The Charge – now three games behind Fort Wayne in the East Division – have just one home game remaining, but they’ll have to play two on the road this weekend before they get there.
On Friday night, they face the Armor for the final time this season. Canton leads the season series, 5-2 – including a 2-2 mark at Springfield. The Charge topped the Armor, 118-110, in their last meeting – shooting 61 percent from the floor with big performances from Shane Edwards (23 points, seven boards), Sergey Karasev (21, 8) and Arinze Onuaku (19, 15).
Springfield is led by a pair of Top 10 Prospects – fifth-ranked Willie Reed (14.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and ninth-ranked Devin Ebanks (23.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
On Saturday, it’s Canton’s final meeting – and rubber match – against Delaware, with each squad winning a pair. The 87ers are led by third-ranked prospect Lorenzo Brown (19.4ppg, 6.6apg ) and 11th-ranked Tiny Gallon (19.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg).
On Wednesday night, the Charge wrap up their home schedule when they welcome the Maine Red Claws to the Memorial Civic Center as the playoff push hits the homestretch.
For this weekend’s action, as always, fans can follow all of the action along with live stats and a live YouTube stream of the game on CantonCharge.com.