Shorthanded 905 fall to Blue Coats

Jama Mahlalela leads his undermanned 905 against the Blue Coats. Photo courtesy: Andrew Damelin

Delaware Blue Coats 126, Raptors 905 111 | Box Score 
Two-ways: Shake Milton (Blue Coats)

There are many antiquated idioms in pro sports, one being there’s no such thing as moral victories. But on Saturday, in a 15-point loss to the Delaware Blue Coats, the 905 earned one. Coaches and players say they hate “excuses”, but today’s were legitimate:

-No Chris Boucher, Jordan Loyd, or Malachi Richardson.

-6 games in 10 nights.

-8 active players.

-Delaware coming off a week of rest.

Raptors 905 Head Coach Jama Mahlalela outlined all of the above in the pregame media scrum, and with his full roster only able to eke out a win over the Blue Coats on opening night, another win was going to be a tough ask.

One addition to the lineup was Kyle Collinsworth, returning from an ankle injury. He tested the ankle early – driving to the hoop four times, scoring on two of them, and drawing a foul on another. Heading into the game’s first timeout, 905 forward Christian Watford held his chest and mimed deep breaths at Collinsworth’, who smiled.  Collinsworth went an encouraging 6-for-11 from the field with 16 points.

“Our team was really excited to have him back. He’s the leader of our team,” Mahlalela said post game. “Really good first half – the four-five games off started to get to him after that, which happens.”

Kay Felder also started strong – scoring on a bully-ball post up (he’s 5’9, his defender Matt Farrell is 6’1). He added a nice assist for a corner three, a smooth pull-up, and a gorgeous feed in transition to Collinsworth for an And-1.

Another great sign was Deng Adel’s early play. Starting at the four, Adel was flying defensively, contesting shooters and bodying up 7-footers inside. “Nice job Adel” was echoing from Mahlalela’s mouth throughout the opening moments.

“For Deng it’s that learning moment of how do I guard players like that,” Mahlalela said.  “It’s about ‘how do I guard those really big popping, shooting talented players? That’s that growth. He’s winning that moment of how do I match up against this type of player, and next game it may be a different type of player and he’ll have to figure that one out too.”

The defensive intensity would wane in the back half of the quarter, though. Blue Coats two-way Shake Milton got going, scoring 11 points, with two threes. And Cameron Oliver sucked the air out of the building with a massive dunk. While the 905 were up 8 after 1, it was going to be tough to maintain the lead with only 8 active players.

Delaware quickly cut the lead to 1 in the second, offensive rebounding (11 conceded), and half court defence  (32 points in the paint conceded on 16-for-24 shooting) becoming major issues. While the Blue Coats were getting almost anything they wanted, the undermanned 905 fought gamely – Adel contesting shots and pumping fists, while going 6-for-6 from the foul line (and 1-for-6 from the field) for 8 first half points. Open Tryout walk-on Khadim Lattin was also huge in his first start of the season, scooping up 5 offensive boards in the first half, while going 4-for-9 from the field, including a big three. Christian Watford going 3-for-4 from deep allowed the 905 to tread water. The Blue Coats shot 49% in the half, but they only made 8-of-23 threes. Somehow the 905 trailed by 4 at the break.

In the third two early Blue Coats threes by Farrell and Jonah Bolden put the lead up to 7, while the 905’s offence ground to a halt, almost exclusively depending on Felder to score or create. Adel tried to revive the crowd with a poster dunk, but after gathering a full head of steam, 6’11 Norvel Pelle sent him away at the apex. Pelle owned the paint, blocking 6 shots, many of the angry, swatting out-of-bounds variety. After easy dunks and layups from the Blue Coats’ bigs upped the lead to double digits, Mahlalela went to a rarely-seen zone. But that was rendered moot by the Blue Coats scoring 5 points in transition to close the quarter. The Blue Coats were up 96-78 after three, and the 905 couldn’t make another run.

Mahlalela said they’re going to “flush this loss down the toilet,” which seems a worthy destination. They host the Windy City Bulls at home on Wednesday.


  • Two-Way 905 Player Notes:
    • Boucher – DNP (watching Raptors blow it against Boston last night, in Chicago tonight)
    • Jordan Loyd – (same)
  • Other 905 Player Notes
    • Kay Felder – there’s a reason Felder averaged over 24 points in his final year college – the man can score. But, he hoped to avoid the dreaded “volume scorer” tag. Coming in he was only shooting 38% from the field this season, putting up over 13 shots and 6 threes a game. To be fair, he had to shoot today, since he was the only option capable of creating his own shot although Collinsworth showed signed). Felder deserves credit rather than slack for needing 23 shots to score 23 points. He also deserves credit for trying to block 6’8 Cameon Oliver on an alley-oop with 5 minutes left in a decided game (he got dunked on).
  • Blue Coats notes:
    • Two-way Shake Milton is super-crafty. He had a field day weaving into the mid-range, then scoring or distributing to open shooters and cutters. 33 points, 12-for-20 from the field, 3-for-6 from three, 10 boards and two assists, and he made it look easy
    • The bigs of Pelle (6’11), Oliver (6’8) and Bolden (6’10) were flying around the rim on both ends. They combined for 10 blocks, and shot 18-for-27 from the field, many of them dunks. The 905’s tallest big – Lattin – is 6’9, so it was a virtually impossible task to contain them in the paint.
    • Once again this year, the code REPUBLIC905 will get you a discount on Raptors 905 tickets. Do it! The team is fun.

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