Reviewing the Stingers 7-Man Rotation (Just Past) Mid Season

Alright, I’m back from a camping trip and ready to write more about the Stingers!

The Edmonton Stingers finished their Ontario portion of the 7 game road trip with a win at Guelph. They currently sit at the top of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) standings at 8-1.

(Xavier Moon’s 4th and 5th fouls in that Ottawa loss were…bogus. Berhanemeskel elbows Moon in the neck, and Moon gets the foul? Ward and Moon have some very slight incidental contact in the key, away from the ball, which is 100% of the time a no-call, but in this case it’s enough to blow the whistle and boot Moon out of the game? I’ll digress a little. We had a lot of opportunities to win that game, but we let it slip away.)

So far in this 2021 campaign the Stingers have been the most impressive team on the floor. I’ll break down their 7-man rotation and how well they compliment each other below. (With some GIFs from their last win over Saskatchewan and the win in Hamilton.) Let’s begin with the starting 5.

Point Guard – Xavier Moon

I’ve already written a couple articles on Moon (his Finals MVP Performance here and his 38 point CEBL Record here). This guy is not only the face of the franchise but also the face of the league right now. He can score from all 3 levels almost at will sometimes. His scoring has also opened up his playmaking abilities as well, he’s currently leading the league in assists per game too. 

In this clip, Moon takes the ball right into the key as the defense is just setting up. Baker’s man leaves him to help defend and that’s a wide open 3 for the Baker Man and an easy assist for Moon.

All GIFs via CEBL+

Shooting Guard – Mathieu Kamba

Kamba is such a strong player, he’d be a starting small forward on any team in the league. (He was our starting SF in the Summer Series last season. I reviewed his Semi-Final performance vs Ottawa here.) He’s been a monster on the offensive boards where he loves to hunt for a monster finish. His bread and butter has been catch and shoot 3’s, boosting his teammates assist totals. Most importantly though is his defense. Every game he’s tasked with defending the other team’s best player and every time he holds them below their PPG average.

On this play, the Hamilton defense overplays on Baker as he backs his man down into the key. Skeens’ man helps on Baker, and Kamba’s man helps on Skeens. Leaving Kamba for a wide open 3 and an easy assist for Baker.

Small Forward – Jordan Baker

This squad essentially starts 2 power forwards. Baker has been an everything guy for this team. He makes timely shots, including his improved efficiency from 3, he makes plenty of great passes, he finishes at the rim or from midrange and of course he’s a rebounding fanatic. An undermentioned part of his game is his defense. One of the reasons this group can comfortably put Kamba on nearly any player is that all these guys defend so well. Baker is one of those guys that makes it difficult for anyone with the ball.

This is a neat little play here. Baker sets a screen for Moon at the top. Both defenders converge on Moon so he gets the ball to Baker. Johnson’s man has to help and get in between Baker and the rim. All Baker has to do is throw the ball up and Marlon Johnson violently puts in 2 points.

Power Forward – Brady Skeens

Looking at some of his international stats heading into this season, we’ve pretty much been getting what we expected out of this guy. He finishes at a high percentage at the rim, grabs loads of rebounds (challenging Baker for most on the team) and is a solid help defender too, getting a block or two a game. He doesn’t always score a ton but he doesn’t need to to make an impact on the game.

This clip is a perfect example of Skeens’ hustle. He fights and jumps for the offensive board between 2 defenders. However, he doesn’t come down with it himself. He has the awareness to see Kamba wide open behind the 3 point line and swats the ball over to him. That’s a hustle play that got the Stingers 3 points.

Center – Marlon Johnson Jr.

If you watched the 2019 season then you’ll remember this guy in a Rattler uniform causing us all kinds of problems. I’m glad he’s been a Stinger this season, for many reasons! He has length and is another very strong defender, hits midrange shots almost automatically and makes plenty of 3’s too to keep defenses honest. Finally, Marlon is a highlight dunk machine. It’s just fantastic every time he skies for a violent finish.

This next clip is a head’s up play. Marlon Johnson has been lethal from midrange. Hamilton is playing a zone here. They somehow allow Johnson take one dribble to the elbow with no resistance. Defenders converge as he elevates for a jump shot, leaving Skeens alone under the hoop. Johnson passes it instead, earning himself a nice assist on a power dunk.

6th Man – Adika Peter-McNeilly

For the 3rd season in a row Adika has been our 6th man. He has been on a tear this season, as soon as he drops a 3 his teammates keep feeding him until he misses a couple. Offensively he’s been opening this game up. This makes it easier for the other Stingers, his man can’t help off of him or it’s an open attempt from range.

On this play, Kamba passes it down to Johnson on the block. Then he goes to the top to set a screen for Peter-McNeilly as he comes down to the wing. Inexplicably, both defenders stay with Kamba, and Adika gets a wide open 3 and an assist for Johnson.

7th Man – Jahmal Jones

Since the Stingers essentially start 3 post players, the first two guys off the bench are guards. Jones has been exactly what this team has needed. He drains buckets when he has to but his passing has been awesome! For awhile he’s had more assists a game than points a game. When Jones subs in and sees 4 weapons around him in Stingers jerseys, he starts to salivate.

On this play, the Stingers force a turnover with some solid pressure. Moon sees that Jones is getting the steal, so he’s already sprinting the other way. Notice how Jones doesn’t pass it right at Moon, he passes it ahead of him towards the basket. This allows Moon to chase down the ball in stride without pausing his momentum. Then he politely throws down the one-handed dunk.

The rest of the rotation has been a bit by committee. When we need an energy guy, Kemel Archer has jumped in. Another Guard in the rotation, then it’s Kareem South (it seems like he’s been at a wedding and vacationing a bit the last few weeks.) Veteran big that can score, it’s Overwater. A scorer from the wing, it’s Adam Carson. A big that alters shots at the rim, it’s Sascha Kappos. All these guys have had an impact at some point during the season.

Our Stingers have 2 more road games remaining, both in Abbotsford against the Bandits. First today (Sunday, July 25th) at 2:00pm MT and then on Tuesday July 27th, 8:00pm MT. Here’s hoping we get to 10 wins before returning home!

Analysing Every Bucket from Xavier Moon’s CEBL Record 38 Points

My initial plan was to review some things that the Edmonton Stingers did in their previous game or two and preview their upcoming opponent, much like I did last week. However, my plans changed a bit. The Saskatchewan Rattlers have had some injury issues (Osse and Gant are out, Webster-Chan is not with the team as well) and are down bad right now. The Stingers play them 3 times in a row and I expect them to win at least 2 of them (this sport is crazy and anything can happen, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rattlers snagged a win.)

Edmonton were not good hosts to their visitors from Ontario. Hamilton, Niagara and Ottawa all left the Expo Center with losses. In the game vs Niagara, Xavier Moon reset the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s (CEBL) single game scoring record to 38 points. Let’s break down how the whole thing went down.

The Stingers win the opening tip and Moon actually jogs down to the corner as the shooting guard. He uses a Baker screen to get the ball at the wing. Pandi gives him a bit too much room as Moon takes a few methodical dribbles to get to the free throw line for the jump shot. 2 points.

All GIFs via CEBL+

Moon gets the long rebound here, and Xavuer Sneed passively picks him up in the transition defense. Moon gets to his spot at the elbow for another jump shot where Sneed just allows it to happen. However, Javin DeLaurier helps off of Skeens and actually is right in Moon’s face when he pulls the trigger. Doesn’t matter. 4 points.

Moon slowly brings the ball up on this play. Marlon Johnson sets a screen at the top while the other players clear out. Both Pandi and Sneed get caught under the screen giving Moon tons of room for his first 3 of the game. Moon may have been 0-3 from 3 in the season opener, but he’s been shooting over 45% from distance in this league over 2 seasons. Defenders shouldn’t be going under screens on him. 7 points.

On this play Johnson gets the ball at the top. Moon sweeps over and “screens” for Adika Peter-McNeilly on the strong side, while at the same time Johnson passes to Baker on the other side above the arc. After Moon and Adika’s action, Moon cuts back up top to the wing and his defender Pandi gets caught on a Johnson screen. Baker earns an assist on another open 3. 10 points.

Moon starts in the corner as the off-guard again with Adika at the point. Moon quickly sweeps to the top and receives the hand-off. This action causes some scrambling with the defense, Sneed switches off of Johnson to defend the ball. Moon gets him moving right a bit before changing direction faster than Sneed can. He’s fouled as he gets to the rim earning 2 shots at the charity stripe. Moon was a perfect 7/7 from the line in this game. Practice your free throw shooting kids! 12 points.

This shot is just a ridiculous heat check. Daniel Mullings becomes the primary defender on Moon. However, he tries to go under the screen by Baker. Moon buries the deep 3. 15 points.

The Stingers get the offensive rebound here. Kamba tests the defense with a jab step before getting the ball back to Moon. Baker and Johnson set screens in the same area, as Moon moves through them Boucard becomes his primary defender. Moon changes his pace and his direction a couple times as he dances to the elbow. He draws contact from Boucard as he puts up the shot. He banks it in and the foul. 3 point play the old fashioned way. 18 points.

Moon is in the corner as the off-guard again. Jahmal Jones is at the point and the Stingers run that double screen that they executed earlier. Baker and Kemel Archer screen at the top. Archer’s screen is used and he receives the pass as he roles to the hoop. Moon’s defender Mullings is all the way down in the key ready to help. Archer recognizes this and passes to the wide open Moon for another 3. (Why would you help that far off of him?) 21 points. All in the 1st quarter, a new CEBL record!

Xavier Moon was actually scoreless in the 2nd quarter, the Stingers were running things to get some other guys going a bit. Mathieu Kamba excelled the most during this time, he ended the day with 14 points.

Early in the 3rd came Moon’s next bucket. A screen at the top by Brady Skeens gives him just enough daylight to streak to the hoop. He hooks the layup in avoiding heavy contact from the help defender. 23 points.

This next Gif is brought to you by “Entrust – Respite”. Moon gets the ball at the top with Mullings hounding him. Moon uses a burst of speed to get around him to the right, then puts in a beautiful floater over Sneed. As easy as it looks, the floater is an EXTREMELY difficult shot. It’s mainly used by guards to get over taller defenders. The drawback is that it’s not easy to control your accuracy on the attempt. Clearly Moon works on this all the time in the lab because this is a shot he makes regularly. 25 points.

Moon gets the steal and the Stingers run the other way. He passes to Johnson near the hoop, but the ball gets fumbled to the top. Baker ends up diving for it and gets the ball to Johnson. As the Stingers retain control of the ball, Moon backs up to the corner. The fight for the ball caused all the defenders to forget about Moon. Johnson recognizes this and zips a pass across the floor to Moon for a wide open 3. 28 points.

Onto the 4th quarter. Skeens sets a screen at the top and as Moon goes left DeLaurier switches onto him. Javin DeLaurier is actually a very good defender. He recognizes he gets beat as Moon gets around him moving right. DeLaurier then tries to accurately time a block at the rim but Moon is too quick and gets another layup. 30 points.

Elam time is approaching. The Stingers run the same play at the top. Skeens sets a screen for Moon and DeLaurier switches onto him. This time Moon gets him dancing a bit before finding a spot just under the free throw line and putting in another difficult jumper. 32 points.

The Stingers run the infamous double screen at the top again. Moon acts as if to use Baker’s screen to the right before sprinting to the left on Skeens’ side. DeLaurier is just a moment too late as he comes up to hedge. He ends up using his hip to force Moon to the right instead of getting his chest in front of him first. You can’t do that. The foul puts Moon on the line (they were in the bonus). 2 more points, puts him at 34.

The cross court pass to Kamba doesn’t quite get the offense what they’re looking for. It gets reset back to Moon at the top. He beats his man and again puts in a difficult floater from the middle of the key. Notice his body control. Moon is able to sprint towards the basket then stamps out that momentum to elevate up, instead of forward and through the defender committing an offensive foul. Incredibly impressive. 36 points.

Jaylen Babb-Harrison gets the ball at the top of the key. He tries jab stepping a couple times to create some room but Moon ends up stripping the ball. Babb-Harrison dives for the loose ball but he ends up colliding into Moon’s legs. The foul puts Moon on the line for the final points of the game.

Xavier Moon was automatic again from the line. He made both, got another Elam winner and got the Stingers another win on the season.

Xavier Moon shot 13/19 from the floor, 5/7 from 3 and 7/7 from the line. He got 6 rebounds (1 offensive), 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block and unfortunately 3 turnovers. (Watching this game as I wrote this, I thought Moon had 2 steals. There was a strip on Sneed as he went up for a jump shot that they must have counted as a block.)

To have this performance in front of the fans too was extra special! The MVP chants as he put the game on ice gave me chills!

The Stingers play tomorrow July 8th 7:30 at the Expo Center as they host the Saskatchewan Rattlers. Get some tickets and head out to the game, or watch it live on CEBL+, the CEBLeague channel on Twitch, or the CBC Gem app.

As always, Defend the Hive!

Overly Simple Eddies Review: Game Three

Guest writer: Nathan Terlesky

We’ve gone from a an Edmonton club who scores rarely and usually cheap or garbage goals to something different. FC Edmonton came into this game riding a high off of the 2-0 solid defeat of the Hamilton Forge, York United also came into this game in similar fashion, losing their first, and winning their second.

At the Loyal Company of the River Valley, we had slotted York to fall down to last place, and have been somewhat surprised with the offensive talent that they have shown already in the short season. That said, it is still early days, and most clubs are attempting to sort out their lines, treating this bubble as a type of preseason as well. Overall, the thought pattern for myself was nerves coming into this game, as the match congestion, along with a York team that was looking to score posed some questions for a tired FC Edmonton defense looking to withstand pressure for the third game in 8 days.

At kick off, Edmonton showed the cohesion that has become an Alan Koch trademark over 3 games, building up the play and showing confident passing and posession. While it didn’t result in much over the first half, Edmonton was again able to keep York stuck with minimal scoring chances and pressured them enough to at least attempt a few shots on net. At half the stats were remarkably similar between the two sides, and I’m sure that some fans were worrying that the previous game against Hamilton was a one-off.

Fortunately the second half started with another wave of pressure from the Rabbits. While York was able to resist and push Edmonton back, Fraser Aird decided to break the deadlock in the 52 minute. Taking the ball near half, he belted an absolute screamer past ex-Eddie Nathan Ingham, who managed to get a fingertip to the shot, but not enough to deal with the power of Aird. The long power shot has been seen in two games now for Edmonton and is a remarkable change in play from previous Edmonton seasons, where shots of this ilk would tend to raise up into the upper seating. Aird has done fantastic things to change the attack for Edmonton, opening up Esua to become more of a offensive threat, as well as to provide a stabilizing force on defense.

Speaking of defense, it unfortunately wasn’t long before York responded. Around 15 minutes after the Edmonton goal, Michael Petrasso danced into the Edmonton area and broke through a few challenges to score on a shot that Connor James had no chance on. While it was a remarkable play, and excellent shot, the story in the replay was Mele Temguia. The big center back has played for Edmonton since the club joined the Canadian Premier League, but was caught watching the ball on this play, leading to Petrasso breaking through and only having Connor James to beat. Unfortunately it was clear that Temguia was flatfooted for much of the second half, and the confidence only returned to the FC Edmonton backline when Amer Didic was subbed in to provide reinforcement.

You also can’t talk about this game without talking about Easton Ongaro’s penalty kick as well. Through it was admittedly a questionable decision to award the PK late in the game, as Hunter Gorskie was judged to be fouled in the York area, you’d like to see Easton do better. Hitting the post when Ingham guessed the wrong way was disappointing and reinforced the sense of two points dropped rather than a point saved. As has been pointed out on social media, sometimes your striker isn’t the right person to take a penalty!

Overall, it was another solid effort from Edmonton. If you had told many CPL fans before the season kicked off that Edmonton would be 1-1-1 and would be in third place, they wouldn’t have believed you. Instead, Alan Koch has taken a club and taken advantage of a short fast season so far to rise up to a solid midtable club. The heavy rotation has provided a clear look at what each player has to offer, and you can almost see where the standard starting eleven will end up when the games start to space out a bit.

Next up for Edmonton is the Halifax Wanderers, a club that is currently going through a small spell of injury, call ups and a head coach going through some health measures back in Halifax. There is an extended rest period for Edmonton as well, so it wouldn’t be unexpected to see the best of FCEd on the pitch for the game on July 10. Another high passing controlled game does give Edmonton the chance to move further up the table and set themselves up for solid positioning come the resumption of games in home markets on August.

If you’re interested in a quick breakdown of all the CPL games, as well as previews, banter and general uneducated takes on FCEd and the CPL, please check out the Loyal Company of the River Valley podcast. We are on all your pod-catchers and release new episodes every Wednesday morning.