As the Salem Capitals and Seattle Super Hawks walked off the court Sunday night, the energy inside Royal Brougham Pavilion wasn’t what you might expect following a fourth quarter double-digit comeback from Salem and a 107-105 win for the home team.
Nearly an hour prior it was electric as the Capitals mounted a comeback from down 18. But with 21 seconds left and the deficit cut to three, the building deflated.
That’s when Salem’s Isaiah Gentry and Seattle’s Broc Finstuen both went up for a pass near halfcourt. They collided in the air, a foul was called on Finstuen, and when he landed he suffered a serious lower leg injury.
The game was delayed for 40 minutes as EMTs attended to Finstuen, stabilized his leg and stretched him out of the building.
Finstuen left with a game-high 26 points along with 10 rebounds.
When play resumed, Gentry went to the free throw line for two, with the Capitals down 106-103.
He knocked both down, and the Capitals quickly fouled Kim Aiken Jr. on the inbounds. Aiken missed the first and hit the second, putting the Super Hawks up 107-105 with 20 seconds to play.
The Capitals came down the court, but the Super Hawks defense flocked to the ball, not allowing a good look at a shot. Preston Whitfield put up a pressured 3-pointer with two seconds left that didn’t fall.
While it may be tough to get back in a rhythm after such a delay, Capitals head coach Kevin Johnson Jr. made no excuses for the loss.
“It’s definitely tough, but at the end of the day both teams have to come back from a delay,” Johnson said. “We had a good chance there. We fouled the right person, that was the game plan. We scored both of the free throws, what can we ask in that situation? We had the last chance shot.”
He had two timeouts left, but Johnson elected not to use one following Aiken’s free throws.
“I didn’t want to be in the half-court set,” Johnson said. “I wanted it to be the whole open court, that gives us a chance, especially with the guards that we have, to try and go by and set screens and do what we did.”
The Capitals trailed by 17 with four minutes remaining, but closed the game on an 18-3 run, including a 10-0 run at one point.
In the end though, their cold shooting start couldn’t be erased. The Capitals shot just 36% in the first half, ending the game at 40%.
The key to the improved shooting could have had a lot to do with timing. The Capitals took shots later in the shot clock in the second half, something that helped both offensively and in slowing down the Super Hawks offense.
“We were getting through our offense instead of taking quick shots like we were doing,” Johnson said. “When we take shots later in our offense that means they have to play defense for a longer period of time. We were taking shots way early in the shot clock, and they don’t have to play defense and they’re able to push it down our throats on their offensive transition.
“16 seconds, 18 seconds into the shot clock you get more quality shots based off the fact that they’ve already moved around a bunch. We were taking better shots later on because we had better shots.”
Gentry finished with a game-high 28 points, while all-star Allen Billinger Jr. had 23. In his second game with the Capitals, Kylor Kelley had his second double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
While the shot selection improved, the Capitals still have other issues hampering them against the Super Hawks. They turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 24 Super Hawks points.
Those are both down from the last time these teams met, a 142-97 Super Hawks win in Salem on March 25 where it was 22 turnovers for 26 points.
“We just need to learn to take care of the ball,” Johnson said. “When we push it we need to know when to push it and when to pull out.
“It’s still early in the season, halfway through, we’re not a supervet team like we were last year. We’ve got to learn one game at a time, and that’s what we’ve been doing. That’s straight across the board, boxing out, that’s taking care of the board, that’s everything. We’ll slowly get there, 13 games to go, that means we learn to take care of the ball.”
The Capitals have some time to work on those things that Johnson wants, with a week off for All-Star Weekend, their next game isn’t until April 14 when they host the Vancouver Volcanoes, and again see these Super Hawks on April 16.
They currently sit at fifth in the West at 5-7.