Well they did it, they finally did it. It took nine games but the 905 have gotten their first victory of the 2023-2024 campaign with a 125-114 victory over the Maine Celtics at Scotiabank Arena. It was an early tip-off at 11:00am due to it being field trip day for elementary schools across the city to come watch the Raptors 905 in downtown Toronto. That meant there were an abundance of children screaming at the top of their lungs to help will the Raptors to their first victory.
“The 19,000 screaming kids are unbelievably loud,” said 905 Head Coach Eric Khoury. “I was lucky enough to be with the Raptors during the championship run, and still the loudest arena I’ve been in is one of these school day kids games. It dwarfs the playoff runs, especially when the t-shirt toss comes out, which makes timeouts next to impossible, but you find a way.”
The energy in the stadium was kept up thanks to the kids, but it was an absolute grind for the 905 due to the amount of injuries. Coming into the game, the junior Raptors were already down to nine players with Markquis Nowell (rib), Justise Winslow (ankle), Omari Moore (hand), Darryl Morsell (ankle), and Myles Burns (illness) all ruled out. Jaylen Morris (illness) was questionable to play and Khoury revealed postgame that he had no intention of playing him but was forced into action after what had unfolded.
Mo Gueye was stretchered off after taking a scary fall in the second quarter. Khoury however provided a positive update on Gueye after the game.
“He sent a message in the group chat, he’s out of the stretcher and everything. He’s able to sit and stand now so hopefully they’re just waiting for the final test, fingers crossed.”
Also in the second quarter, Ron Harper Jr. exited the game with a rib contusion and did not return. While Javon Freeman-Liberty turned his ankle and left to the locker room, but did make it back out onto the court.
Then in the fourth quarter, Kobi Simmons tweaked something and was removed from the game. To make matters worse, Kevin Obanor had fouled out leaving the 905 with a grand total of FIVE players to close out the game. Furthermore, of the five finishing the game Freeman-Liberty was playing on a bum ankle and Jaylen Morris wasn’t expected to play as mentioned before. Makur Maker even was seen limping after a Celtic’s player fell into his knee.
Despite all of that, the 905 found a way to pull through.
“We have such a deep team of talent, but such a deep team of great people as well,” Khoury proclaimed. Everybody pulled their socks up and everybody had to play big minutes. Everybody contributed [who] was able to step on the court.”
The biggest contributor was Javon Freeman-Liberty. In a game high 42:21 minutes of action he finished with 31 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Freeman-Liberty was clearly awake for the early tip as he was aggressive right from the jump scoring the first 12 points for the 905.
“You always need players on the court who can collapse the defense and touch the paint,” Khoury stated. “He finds ways to get downhill and his shot has come along so well that now he can do both. He’s a heck of a player for us and he’s somebody who creates a lot of advantages.”
Freeman-Liberty didn’t do it alone as Gradey Dick had himself a game as well. Finishing with 21 points on 7/14 from the field and 4/7 from distance.
Other notable contributions came from Kevin Obanor and Makur Maker who each scored 21 points, and Kobi Simmons who was a rebound short of a triple-double with 10 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds.
The Raptors will look to build off their first win of the season when they travel to Westchester to take on the Knicks.