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Rattlers outlast Honey Badgers in chippy affair to snap losing skid

Saskatchewan Rattlers Brampton Honey Badgers Jalen Harris - CEBL

It was clear from the first possessions of the game that both the Brampton Honey Badgers and Saskatchewan Rattlers were desperate for a win.

In the end, though, it was the Rattlers who came out victorious.

Jalen Harris surpassed 500 career regular-season CEBL points with 26 on the night as the Rattlers topped the Honey Badgers 76-69 on Friday at the CAA Centre in Brampton, Ont.

Maurice Calloo scored the game-winner for Saskatchewan, driving from the corner before beating Brampton big man Yaw Obeng-Mensah with a euro step and laying it home.

Saskatchewan snapped a brief two-game skid to improve to 4-2 with the win, while Brampton fell to 2-4 while suffering its fourth consecutive loss.

“Very important,” Calloo told sideline reporter Dhanung Bulsara of the win. “We fell two short and everybody just locked in and said we have to get one to go home and that’s what we did.”

The contest was defensively focused and chippy throughout.

Tempers flared midway through the second quarter when Honey Badgers big man Zane Waterman and Rattlers guard Elijah Harkless got tangled up underneath the Rattlers’ rim, leading members of both teams, including players and coaches, to exchange words.

Following a lengthy review, both Waterman and Harkless were ejected in addition to Honey Badgers guard LJ Thorpe. The Rattlers’ Harris was also assessed an unsportsmanlike foul, while three additional technicals were called on Brampton.

After all the dust settled, the Honey Badgers seemed energized as swing man Shamiel Stevenson picked up much of the slack, leading the team with 11 points and four rebounds at half and punctuating his performance by posterizing Rattlers forward Grant Basile late in the second quarter.

“We’re a team, right? It’s not just one or two guys. It’s a whole team and when I say a whole team I’m including our practice players. We’re all together and I believe in each and every one of them, I tell them almost every day, so that’s all it’s about,” Honey Badgers head coach Sheldon Cassimy said.

Saskatchewan struggled shooting the ball in the first half, shooting just 18 per cent from beyond the arc and nine of 17 from the free-throw line.

But the Rattlers, led by Harris, found their offensive rhythm in the second half.

“I came out, I missed a lot of easy ones that normally I know I would make. A lot of guys, the whole team, we shot a pretty bad percentage on the night. But it’s the law of averages, it’s the game. It’s a game of runs, ups and downs, so it just comes with it,” Harris said.

Up 67-65 entering Target Score Time, Saskatchewan pulled away quickly as Brampton seemed content to settle for contested layups.

In the end, it was the CEBL veteran Calloo, who was boisterous throughout the game, including some words for the Honey Badgers bench after hitting a three, that ended the proceedings. 

Calloo finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while guard Cody John came off the bench to play nearly 30 minutes, contributing seven points, five assists and three rebounds.

“This was a must-win for us,” Rattlers head coach Larry Abney said. “Losing Elijah was our fire. Jalen’s our composure, Elijah’s our fire. We did have a plan and we were able to execute that plan, next man up. Cody [John] came in and played very valuable minutes handling the ball. Jalen took over some ballhandling responsibilities and we were able to stay in the stuff that we practised to prepare for them.”

Given the feistiness, it was perhaps fitting that Houston Rockets and Team Canada guard Dillon Brooks took in the game from courtside seats.

Brooks is likely to compete at this summer’s Olympics, where one of his main roles will be to pester opposing teams’ top players.

For now, the Saskatchewan-Brampton fracas only adds intrigue as the teams are set to meet again on Wednesday in Saskatoon.

What’s next?

The Honey Badgers stay home for an Eastern Conference showdown against the Scarborough Shooting Stars on Sunday, while the Rattlers return to Saskatchewan as they await a rematch with Brampton on Wednesday.