By Terrance Gavan
Zach Cox is a tall drink of water; easy-going, unassuming and silky smooth in the paint.
Last Thursday (Jan 20) against Fenelon Falls Cox got his mean on in the Hawks’ Nest.
Either that or he saw the light.
Whether Cox was channeling his inner Charles Barkley or underwent some apocryphal basketball version of a big tent revival is moot.
What’s important is: a light went on somewhere in the recesses of Cox’s noggin, and he rolled out a collective array of post-up moves that absolutely befuddled Fenelon Falls compact zone.
Cox scored 20 points to lead all scorers in an exciting come from behind 41-38 win over the Falcons.
And he looked, well, like Zach Cox always looks. Easygoin’ and free-rollin’. Except that behind the grin and low post slide, there was a steel-eyed determination. And every time he asked for the ball, his point guards Tanner Ballantyne, Tanner Hamilton and Louis Ferracuti got the message.
They got him the ball and Cox did the rest; scoring on soft ten footers, turnarounds, nifty lay-ups and perhaps most important? He nailed 10 of his 11 throws from the charity stripe. In fact his last three clutch free throws in the dwindling seconds, hammered down the final brads on Fenelon’s coffin.
Junior Hawks coach Paul Longo said it was a satisfying comeback win over their Highway 35 rivals. Made more poignant by that second half surge after trailing the Falcons at the half, 20-13.
Longo said the game plan after the disappointing first half centered on getting the ball into Cox and Nathan Feir.
“I told them that ‘we gotta keep getting the ball inside and be patient, and hope for a bucket and a foul,’ ” said Longo.
Hawks took that halftime pep rally to heart apparently.
They came out rejuvenated playing a strict zone press with some superb ball-hawking courtesy of Ballantyne, Hamilton and Ferracuti. They dominated the third quarter and outplayed and outran the lamentably under-benched Falcons to narrow the margin to 28-24 at the end of three.
And in the fourth quarter? The Hawks came out runnin’ and popped six straight points to finally wrestle a 30-28 lead from the flagging Falcons.
And Cox? Well, he found his promised land in the paint. Playing Moses to Fenelon’s Pharisees Cox grabbed boards like manna and forced the action by dint of sheer will.
The hustling press, great backcourt play, and Feir’s rebounding did the rest.
Longo was careful to credit all of his players, but he was most munificent in his appraisal of his unabashedly talented pivot man, who on this day at least was head and shoulders – literally and figuratively – above the competition.
“He (Cox) played great,” said Longo. “He made double digit rebounds and he was really showing some aggressiveness. He showed a desire to put the ball in the hoop; and we also played really strong defense as a team.”
Feir and Tanner Ballantyne both scored seven points in the win.
Longo said that it’s the first time the Hawks have posted a win against the larger Hwy 35 Triple A rival this year.
“It was a nice win, we’ve had a couple of close games so it was nice to win one in the fourth,” said Longo. “We’re down seven at the half, and four after three, so we played a great fourth quarter.”
Hawks are now 3-5 in Kawartha league play, and with a finishing gallop in their remaining two league games they can finish the season at 500.