The First Basketball team travelled to Burlington Friday afternoon for their opening games of the Small School Showcase Invitational tournament. The tournament is an annual collection of all the top 'A' and 'AA' schools in the province, and always features provincial championship contenders.
This year was no different, as the Saints faced off against defending 'A' OFSAA champions O'Gorman in the opening round. From the opening tip, it was clear that the Saints were prepared to play team basketball at both ends of the floor. Great defensive slides, screen communication, and rebounding took O'Gorman's chances away in their drive-and-kick offence. Meanwhile, good execution and ball movement saw multiple players score in the first half in a balanced attack. The second half saw excellent contributions by all players as the Saints protected their lead and continued their defensive focus. An impressive start to the tournament.
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The quarter-finals saw the Saints matched up against #2 seed LaSalle. They were led by their own version of Jacob Edwards, a lefty point guard who could shoot, attack the rim, and distribute. Adre Simmonds earned the honour of defending him, and he did an excellent job of forcing him into tough shots. The Saints continued to share the ball and balance the attack on offence, leading 16-9 after one quarter. An unfortunate injury to LaSalle's top player left them short-handed in the second quarter, and the Saints took advantage with a variety of trapping defences and transition points. Another solid team win puts the Saints into the semi-finals against another perennial OFSAA contender in Glendale HS.
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The First Basketball team tipped off against Glendale (Tilsonburg) in the semi-finals on day two of the Small School Showcase. The opening quarter saw the Saints continue to build on their success in the tournament by moving the ball effectively on offence, attacking the glass, and pounding the ball inside. Defensively, the Saints kept their man in front of them and forced Glendale into tough shots. After jumping out to an early 13-6 lead, Glendale did get some tough jumpers to fall and battled back to tie the game at 13 at the end of one.
Glendale moved into a zone defence to start the second quarter, and the Saints got good looks but weren't able to connect from the perimeter. This led to tentative play from the guards, which Glendale capitalized on as they created turnovers, scored in transition, and went on an 8-0 run. The Saints regrouped and went back to basics, attacking from the high post and low block. It was enough to get them back into the game at 28-21 at the half.
The third quarter opened well for the Saints, as they moved to a trapping zone and picked up steals. They closed the gap to within two points, and had some shots to take the lead, but only connected on four three pointers the entire game. Meanwhile, Glendale's secondary scorer had an incredible game, hitting tough running layups and finding offensive boards fall into his lap for three point shots. The Saints fought hard, but tough fouls, missed box outs, and a lid on the rim were too much to overcome.
The Saints should be proud of their showing and finishing in the top four among a very strong provincial field. They have proven they belong in the conversation with the best of the best at the A and AA level. Hopefully they can continue the momentum as they have three critical league games left in a fight for the final playoff spot.
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Story by Sean Ludwig, Varsity Basketball Head Coach