Blessed Sacrament and Ballers Basketball Advance to Yellow Jacket Semi-Finals
HAMILTON – The Blessed Sacrament annual tournament is being held this weekend. NPH was present on Saturday to fill their readers in on the highlights and top performers of under-19 talent at the event.
One of the host teams, Blessed Sacrament Yellow Jackets, coached by Manny Frutado, entered the second day of their invitational tournament seeded number one. In the first game of day two for the Junior level A and B squads, Blessed Sacrament faced off against IEM Spartans from the Newmarket-Aurora area. The Spartans were seeded seventh. Blessed Sacrament defeated IEM 76 to 42.
It was evident from the beginning that the Yellow Jackets were favoured to win the game, not only by their ranking, but also by their play. Blessed Sacrament was aggressive on offense, running down the IEM defence, and forcing the Spartans to make crucial errors.
One offensive threat that really stood out was Blessed Sacrament guard and Ottawa commit Caleb Agada. With 23 of the Yellow Jackets 76 points, Agada was a leader from the three-point line, shooting without hesitation.
Despite the loss, there were some positives to the Spartan’s game. Niko Plastich, forward for the Spartans, contributed the most to the IEM’s game. Plastich put up 13 points in the loss; however, his leadership on defence was the reason this game didn’t get out of hand for the Spartans.
Plastich lead most of the breakouts leaving the Spartan zone, and he was one of the few Spartans showing any signs of rebound control. Down by 18 heading into the third quarter, IEM suffered a huge loss when Plastich fell hard to the floor following a scramble for the ball. Plastich was assisted off the court by teammates and didn’t return to the game. This would hinder the Spartans later on in the tournament as well. With their best player out, the Spartans hopes of a comeback were depleted. No one stepped up for IEM. As their confidence dwindled, the Spartans fell 34 points to the host team.
In the second game of the A and B pools, Ballers Basketball, seeded number two in the tournament, defeated the Collingwood Trailblazers, the second last place team in this division. Finishing strong in the league last year, the Ballers were tournament favourites. Collingwood started off with a bang, coming out of the gate with two three-pointers, putting the Ballers on their toes for the first few minutes. But, the Ballers combination of guard, Juwon Grannum, on offense and combo guard, Kashrell Lawrence on defence proved to be electric for the Ballers. Lawrence’s insistent man-to-man coverage broke down the Collingwood offense on more than one occasion. The Ballers were very vocal on the defence and paired with their talent and height, it was intimidating for the Trailblazer offense.
However, Collingwood guard, Dan Halos, came up big for the Trailblazers in their moments of despair. Halos was all over the court for Collingwood. He back checked harder than anyone on both teams. Although he only had 8 points in the game, Halos drained threes, crashed the net for lay ups, and added several assists in a valiant attempt to get the Trailblazers into a position within reach of a victory against the Ballers. But the tasked proved to be too daunting for Collingwood. The Ballers relentless offense led them to a 64-43 win over the Trailblazers.
With the elimination round finishing off in the morning, Blessed Sacrament played again in the afternoon against the York Avengers in the pool A and B quarter finals. York came out of the gates strong against the Yellow Jackets. For the first half of the first quarter, possession was mainly in favour of York. Then, Agada sunk his first three-pointer to fuel Blessed Sacrament. Agada would put another three on the board for the Yellow Hornets extending the gap between Blessed Sacrament and York to seven points. York would enter the second quarter down by 6.
Blessed Sacrament has one secret weapon on their team, and after watching one quarter of a game, it was barely a secret at all. They play two-thirds of their game from beyond the three-point line. It was astonishing watching the Yellow Jackets constantly shooting from past the three-point line and draining nearly every single one. Blessed Sacrament led against York by almost 20 points at the half, prior to the horn, the last six baskets they put up on the scoreboard had all been three-pointers. However, this did not seem to be as obvious to the Avengers as it was to the fans watching. York continued to give Blessed Sacrament room at the edge of the semi-circle, and this was the biggest reason for their loss. Abednego Lufile, forward for Blessed Sacrament, was pretty quiet in their early game against the IEM Spartans, but he was definitely a factor in their victory over York. Lufile attributed 13 points in the win, and helped create space for his teammates in the offensive zone for their three-point attempts. He played smart, collected defence, giving none of the York players any room. Although it was a team win for Blessed Sacrament, Lufile was a top performer on the court for his team. Blessed Sacrament advances to the semi-finals on Sunday morning.
Following the Blessed Sacrament-York quarter final, the Ballers took on Burlington in hopes of a semi-final position Sunday morning as well. This was the first time in the tournament Ballers Basketball appeared to face stiff competition. Half was through the second quarter, the Burlington Panthers were ahead by one. It was the closest game in the Junior level A and B divisions that day. Back and forth, back and forth, each team capitalized on their opponents mistakes and took advantage of their own offensive opportunities. Unlike their game against Collingwood, Lawrence and Grannum were not as involved; however, the Burlington defence didn’t give either player much to work with. So Connor Wood, forward for the Ballers, filled for their lack of offense. He tallied 23 points for the Ballers. Wood was a leader in the Panther’s zone. He drove to the net like a freight train. Most times, no one even touched him. In his own zone, Wood was aggressive, maybe even too aggressive at some moments. A few late fouls against Wood were costly for the Ballers as Burlington tried to upset the tournament favourite. Regardless of their mighty push in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Burlington fell short three points. The Ballers will advance to the semi-finals on Sunday after a 61-58 win against the Panthers.
After a tough loss to Blessed Sacrament, York defeated the Ottawa Gaurdsmen 67 to 58 in the B pool semi-final. They advance to the B finals against the London Ramblers. London defeated the Burlington Panthers number two team 71-68 to give them a chance for gold. Burlington and Ottawa will play for the bronze medal of the B pool.