Just like their meeting 14 days prior, Sunday’s matchup between the Capitals and Superhawks came down to the final seconds of a one-possession game.
And just like on April 2, Sunday ended with a Salem miss and a Seattle win, this time 105-102.
The Capitals had a good chance though. A missed Seattle free throw kept it a one-possession game. Isaiah Gentry took the rebound with less than 7 seconds remaining on the clock, made his way across half court, and put up a running 3-pointer.
The contact on the shot had the Capitals’ bench looking for a whistle, but officials must have felt Gentry initiated most of the contact by jumping forward into his defender.
“In those scenarios it’s hard to tell,” Gentry said. “You see a lot in sports about a call that should have been made, but at the end of the day I missed an open teammate with the pass. The right play should have been to kick it ahead, plays happen, they didn’t call the foul, got to live with that.”
Gentry’s head coach Kevin Johnson Jr. echoed his sentiments about the lack of a foul on the last shot.
“It puts the ref in a tough situation,” Johnson said. “I feel like it just kind of depends on who the referee is, maybe they’ll call it, maybe they won’t.”
The pieces fell into place with missed Seattle free throws and a last look for Salem again.
Both times, Johnson had a timeout at his disposal, but chose not to to keep Seattle from being able to set up a half-court defense, a decision Johnson said he’ll live by. If the situation comes up a third time, only time will tell what Johnson will choose to do.
“It depends on how much time is left, depends on whatever’s going on in the game,” Johnson said. “We’ll see how it goes, but hopefully next time we won’t be in this situation. Maybe we’ll just win the game.”
It was the third meeting between Salem and Seattle this season, all three ending in Seattle’s favor. Back on April 2, it was a 2-point Super Hawks win in Seattle. On March 25, in Salem, it was a 142-97 drubbing.
Sunday was easily the best performance for the Capitals. They led by eight in the first half, the most from any of the three games. They shot 51% from the field in the first half, though they were just 4-for-16 on 3-pointers.
“They never stop fighting, and that’s something we know about them,” Gentry said. “We let our foot off the gas pedal and they’re a team that no matter if we’re 10 points ahead, 20 points ahead, they’re really resilient with that. They’re a really good, patient, poised team.”
Gentry and the Capitals held Seattle All-Star Michael Carter III to just 3 points in the first quarter on 1-for-4 shooting. But Carter ended with 25 points, missing just one shot in the final three quarters.
“He’s a talented player, you can only contain someone for so long,” Johnson said.
Gentry had a game-high 30 points for the Capitals, playing aggressive and looking to drive from the start.
“I’m a bigger guard, so the advantage I have is being able to attack downhill on guards that aren’t necessarily smaller, but I can be a little more aggressive on,” Gentry said. “So from the jump it was get to the cup as much as we can and then rely on my outside shot.”
For Johnson, Gentry’s size as a guard is much more vital on the defensive end, especially against a team like Seattle with a roster filled with big guards.
“That’s why I leave him in the game for as long as he does,” Johnson said. “They have a bunch of big guards, that’s who they are. They don’t really have any bigs, they have one-and-a-half bigs because Jordan Bell shoots a lot of 3-pointers and he’s not really banging like that.”
Bell had 25 points for the Super Hawks, going 5-for-9 from outside.
Unfortunately for Gentry and the Capitals, those outside shots just weren’t falling for them. He was 2-for-6, while as a team they shot 22% on 3-point attempts.
In their previous game on Friday, the Capitals shot 42% from beyond the arc.
“You know, 7-for-31 isn’t terrible, we could have shot better, but I don’t think it was that,” Johnson said. “The reason we got what we got by losing this game is we weren’t able to play for 48 minutes. We had energy at the beginning of the game, we had energy towards the end of the game. But it’s the in between quarters that we need to bring that same energy on defense.”
It wasn’t just on the defensive end that things seemed to shift for the Capitals at points during the game.
In the first quarter, the Capitals had just two turnovers, leading to three Super Hawks points. They ended the day with 20 turnovers, while Seattle scored 31 points off of them.
“Against a team like this we’re going to get punished,” Johnson said. “They’re off to the races every single time. They like to run in transition, they score a lot of points in transition. Once we limit those mistakes and not take quick shots in certain situations is when we’ll be able to go to the next level.”