MISSISSAUGA, ON–Everyone loves an underdog.
The St Marcellinus Spirit would fit the bill, entering the Peel region quarter-finals against the Father Goetz Gators, who held an 8-0 regular season record entering the game.
Despite having already beaten Goetz at the David Suzuki tournament earlier this month, and an 8-0 regular season record of their own, the Spirit have been flying under the radar due to not being in any of the “major tournaments.”
“They’ve been underdogs all year; we were close to not even having a team,” Substitute Head Coach Frank Furgiuele told NPH.
With a 63-60 victory over the Gators, the Marcy fans rushed the floor in celebration, like they had just won the NCAA championship.
Not quite, but for the Spirit, it was the biggest win in school history, and was the first ever playoff game for this group in their four years.
“That’s something I’m very proud of. I can see the talent we have…that’s a great experience for them, to see them shine like that,” continued Furgiuele.
Helal Safi lead the way scoring a team-high 19 points, hitting from the perimeter, while nailing two clutch free throws down the stretch to extend Marcy’s lead to three.
Jordan Martin and Keenan Danso-Dapaah added 13 apiece.
Martin was instrumental in slowing down the Gators by strapping up against lead guard Freddy Ibrahim, who broke out earlier this season at the Xavier Rimrocker.
Jordan Martin, who was a former club teammate of Ibrahim [Brampton Warriors] took the match up personally, and made it very uncomfortable for his opponent.
“I did, I had too. People were talking before the game, and I had to show them,” said Martin, on his defensive performance.
Danso-Dapaah also came up big down the stretch, scoring seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, while creating plays for his teammates.
For Father Goetz, Rimas Rekus lead with a game-high 21 points, filling in for the production of Matthew Carating, who went down in the first half with what appeared to be an knee injury.
Carating is a major piece for Father Goetz, who was certainly missed.
Marcos Clennon and Freddy Ibrahim added 14 point each for the Gators.
As for the Spirit, they proved to be a scrappy unit, with active hands and feet, able to keep Goetz out of rhythm, consistently forcing turnovers, and using their lack of size as an advantage.
Their balance on both ends of the floor make them unpredictable.
“We’re a pass first team, there’s never a one on one player,” said Danso-Dapaah, St Marcellinus’ captain.
Jordan Martin then jumped in, saying, “It’s hard work, it’s hard work, it’s all about hard work…we grind hard every single game, that’s all we do.”
They will have to continue working in their Peel region semi-final match up against one of the top teams in the nation, the D’Youville Panthers. The winner will punch their ticket to the OFSAA provincial championship tournament.
“We play every game like it’s our last,” said Keenan Danso-Dapaah.
Against the Panthers, it very well could be, entering the competition as a heavy underdog.
Something they’re used to by now.