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What Bad Mojo?: Sea Bears End Four Game Slide With Win Over Top Seeded Bandits

After the unprecedented events of Monday morning, no one could have predicted how Wednesday's game could have gone. The post Teddy Allen era began for the Winnipeg Sea Bears on Wednesday night, on national television, against the number one seeded Vancouver Bandits. The Sea Bears came out firing on all cylinders, getting out to an early 14-3 lead. Solid offence and very good defence continued throughout the remainder on the first half, with the offence sputtering towards the end. Heading into the half, the Sea Bears led 46-37 and the vibes were great, their performance was much improved from the last two weeks of play. In the second half, the Bandits struck back on offence, finding their form early on. In this third quarter is where the Winnipeg offence had trouble getting going, and it allowed Vancouver to narrowly get out ahead after 30 minutes of play. Those offensive struggles continued on into the fourth quarter and the Bandits kept getting scores on offence. Winnipeg could only muster 4 points before Target Time and trailed 78-66, Target Score set at 87. The chances of Winnipeg ending their losing streak looked quite bleak and it seemed like going back to the drawing board was needed. But as soon as Target Time began, the Sea Bears seemed to get some sort of second wind and rallied to win the game, outscoring the Bandits 22-6 in the specialty time. Justin Wright-Foreman banking in an unbelievably deep three at the end of the shot clock for the win. Overall the team performance from the Sea Bears was 10x better than what it had been over the last five games.

With that short recap of the game out of the way, let's get into the three keys from this one.

Offensive Flow

One of the biggest notes that coach Mike Taylor made when releasing Teddy Allen was playing within the structure, having offensive flow, and getting everyone involved. After seeing their performance on Wednesday night, I can definitely say that Winnipeg checked all those objectives off their list. The ball moved really well, every player that stepped onto the floor scored at least once, and it rarely ever felt like their play was stagnant on purpose. Even though Wright-Foreman carried the load offensively with 32 points, everyone got their chance to make an offensive impact on the game. What we saw was much better and more so what coach Taylor is looking for. The Sea Bears did go quite cold in the second half, but woke up at just the right time. Basketball is a game of runs and their biggest game at the beginning and end of the game. It's never going to be perfect, and this execution was definitely good enough for a win.

Defensive Stops

For the first time this season, I can talk about a full game effort of good defence from this team. First off, that effort was there the entire game, their rotations were very good, and it felt like every single player was making a difference on that end of the floor. In terms of opposing scoring, Winnipeg holding Nick Ward to a SINGLE POINT, while also making Koby McEwen, Zach Copeland, and Taze Moore's nights very difficult (combined 35% shooting and 46 points), was a very welcome sight. Moore and McEwen were especially quiet for most of the night and it never really felt like either scorer took a hold of the game. Fantastic work from the players and coach Mike Taylor to gameplan and execute on Vancouver's star players.

Positive Energy

One of the biggest things I was looking for during the game was how were the players going to respond to begin and at any point through adversity. Throughout all the ups and downs in this game, the teams energy was positive, there was encouragement and engagement from the bench and all in all it was great signs that this team has turned a new leaf without their reigning MVP.

With the three keys from the game done, time to get into my thoughts on the individual performances from this one.

Justin Wright-Foreman

There were a couple of questions around JWF if he was going to just step in for Teddy Allen and deliver what the Sea Bears had been missing so far in 2024, and so far so good. 32 points, five rebounds, four assists, efficient shooting is exactly what the doctor ordered. He wasn't afraid to take it himself, or be unselfish and give it up to an open teammate. His six turnovers are a little concerning, but for a guy who creates a ton, you can give him some slack. It's also not concerning when there isn't a second player on the roster doing the same. Might be a bit different when Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson comes back from injury.

Alex Campbell

Another inefficient shooting night from Campbell, but like a veteran, he hit the shots when Winnipeg needed them most. Also played a bigger role in running the offence at times, doing a pretty decent job of that. Rotating between guarding Moore, McEwen and Copeland is not easy and did a great job on all three. Hard to ask more of him when he has such a big defensive responsibility. His confidence also looked much higher, so he is definitely growing into the season.

Simon Hildebrandt

A hot and aggressive start for Hildebrandt saw him get on the board early. Very impressed to see him take it to Moore and even draw a foul on him. His shooting got cold for the remainder of the game, but he never hesitated to let it fly. With that confidence, one of these games they really start to drop. Pulled down some good rebounds too for the Sea Bears. Just more development for the young forward, which is fantastic to see.

Byron Mullens

Foul trouble plagued Mullens in this one, hitting two threes and fouling twice in the first 90 seconds of the game and heading to the bench for a good chunk of time. He got subbed back in in the second quarter, then fouled almost immediately, and was right back on the bench. Only 10 minutes of play and was up and down throughout. The Sea Bears need him to be more consistent and stay on the floor for longer stretches. Needs to be an X-factor moving forward, but Winnipeg was able to make it up without him on the night.

Mason Bourcier

Not the best offensive game for Bourcier, but he still ran the offence, played good defence and even hit a huge three in Target Time. He'll fill up the box score while also doing the things that don't show up on the sheet. My assumption is he got the starting spot in place of the injured JOJ and did so adequately. We will see if he continues to hold that spot or not, but I've been very impressed with what I've see through nine games.

Emmanuel Akot

Alongside JWF, Akot had the best performance of all the Sea Bears of the night. Fantastic two-way play, doing a bit of everything on offence, while also doing a great job of locking down Moore on the other end. Energy, effort and results are what you need off the bench, and I hope that he can continue to bring it for the rest of 2024.

David Muenkat

I knew Muenkat could rebound, but man, 12 from a non big man? Fantastic work on the glass from him, while also doing enough on defence. He also made a couple highlight reel plays, one being an unreal block. His offence was not there tonight, missing some easy ones around the rim, but he did hit the timely three to put Winnipeg back in the lead during Target Time. Still lots to like from Muenkat on the night and I hope he continues to bring the energy.

Chad Posthumus

With Mullens' foul trouble, Posthumus played a little more than I think coach Taylor thought he would. Two buckets, good defence on Ward when he needed to, and brought more energy off the bench. Good stuff from the ever so steady vet.

Shane Osayande

Working in tandem with Posthumus, Osayande also gave good energy and other players time to rest on the bench. Other than three fouls, he really didn't step a foot too wrong in this one. Steady as ever.

All in all this was the best case scenario for Winnipeg, good offensive flow, rock solid defence, better effort from the team, and culminating in a Sea Bears victory ending the four game losing streak. Their next game is at home against the Saskatchewan Rattlers on Saturday, who are also towards the top in the Western Conference.

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