This past weekend, the First Basketball team took a short-handed lineup and three U16 players to the Small School Showcase in Burlington.
The field always features a lineup of the top A/AA schools in the province, and perennial OFSAA contenders. This year's lineup was no different, featuring teams from Sudbury, Toronto, Kingston, Windsor, and more. The Saints were eager to show they belong in the conversation.
In their opening game, the Saints played excellent team basketball against Fellowes High School from Pembroke. Crisp ball movement led to open shots on the perimeter, and solid team defence limited opportunities in the paint. Amar Patel had a breakout game driving to the basket and Bryce Neil hit a big three-pointer down the stretch.
In Game 2, the Saints ran into a deep disciplined team in St. Joseph's from Barrie. Their squad was full of sharp-shooters and played disciplined defence. Isaac Bradbury and Noah Hulton worked hard at both ends of the floor to keep the Saints in the game, but the team's legs gave out in the second half and St Joe's pulled away.
St. Joseph's 65
In the Saturday 'friendly' game to determine fifth place, the Saints faced off against St. Thomas Aquinas out of Alliston. This game turned out to be the game of the tournament, as it was a back and forth barn burner all the way through!
The Saints came out on fire from the perimeter as Noah Hulton and Dara Goharchi knocked down key jumpers, while Yiannis Spetsakis was physical on the glass. Nate Falconi, Oliver Ingram, and Bilal Mahmood were fantastic defensively and took care of the ball on offence through patient execution. The Saints welcomed Wells Karabin back to the lineup and he made an immediate impact on both ends of the floor.
After four quarters, the game was sent to overtime and continued to be a tight battle. The Saints drew up a play with 3.5 seconds left and had a shot to win it but couldn't convert, sending the game to a second overtime period. In the second overtime, everything clicked and the Saints dominated. The Saints locked down defensively, while Wells Karabin and Amar Patel hit daggers to put the game away.
St. Thomas Aquinas 56
Wednesday afternoon, the Saints headed to Crescent to play the finalists of that same Small School Showcase tournament. Young, deep, and well coached, Crescent has battled with some of the top teams in the GTA all season long and holds a #10 GTA ranking.
The Saints decided to go big and play a 'grind it out' style of basketball, and it was very successful in the first half. Zakhar Karakulkin was effective scoring in the post, while Wells Karabin was a beast on the offensive glass and Yiannis Spetsakis cleaned up the defensive boards. Amar Patel, Mario Vazquez, and Dara Goharchi were patient and composed in the half-court offence, often making the extra pass to find an open shooter. Defensively, the Saints worked together and slowed down Crescent's attack. It was 22-21 Saints at the half.
Going into the second half, the coaches warned the Saints that Crescent would try to pick up the tempo and wear them down. Sure enough, they opened up the quarter with three straight transition baskets and forced the Saints to call timeout. Then Crescent continued to crash the glass and earn a couple of easy putback buckets, opening up a 10 point lead. At the same time, a lid went on the basket of the Saints, as they weren't able to hit some wide open shots out of their zone offence. To their credit, the Saints picked up their defensive intensity, created turnovers and tried to chip away at the lead, but struggled to finish in transition. Time ran out on the Saints and Crescent hung on for the win.