The elite basketball programs at every level (HS, CCAA, CIS, NCAA, NBA) share one common trait that is not only vital to success, but required. And I’m not talking about basketball teams, I’m talking about PROGRAMS. Big difference.
The longevity and consistency that D’Youville Panther basketball has displayed is a complete testament to the work ethic and dedication to excellence, which Head Coach Carlo Zoffraneri, assistant David Zeni and the support staff at D-Y have brought to the table.
At the 2014 Peel championship game, the 54-47 victory over Notre Dame would give D’Youville their fifth ROPSSAA title in six years.
The perennial power entered the game confident, but cautious against a Notre Dame squad that has gradually risen to new heights this season.
“You gotta give credit to Notre Dame…those kids are talented, they work hard, their not going to give up. They have a great understanding for flow, and make big runs. They’re not going to come here and get blown out,” D-Y Head Coach Carlo Zoffraneri told NPH.
The Panthers opened a large lead in the first half, that was extended by a DamiAnn Prehay three to end the second quarter and put D’Youville up on Notre Dame 29-13 at halftime.
But the scrappy Knights did not go away quietly, opening an 11-0 run to start the third quarter.
“They came in with more intensity and got into a couple runs, but we have to be able to come into the game every quarter strong,” said Christien Gould, who finished with 10 points, including clutch buckets from behind the arch and at the free throw line.
Zoffraneri spoke to Gould’s composure. “He’s a tough kid, not scared of the moment…he wants to be on the floor. He’s grown on us, matured a lot, bought into our system and is slowly becoming one of our main guys.”
Gould added, “Every practice we’re in the gym, working on our shots…we have to hit those, so we can pull out the win,.”
DamiAnn Prehay and Ovie Eyamaro lead D-Y with 15 points apiece, however it was Jerome Simpson that stepped up in the second half to break ND pressure and weather the storm.
“Jerome is our glue guy,” said Zoffraneri, while explaining his importance in the locker room. “We were just telling his mother he’s one of our all-time favourite kids…he’s one of a kind.”
“You won’t find one person in our school who does not like Jerome Simpson.”
For Notre Dame, it was Frank Agyemang who lead with 12 points, while Michael Asemota added nine. The Knight have qualified for OFSAA and have the pieces to potentially play cinderella.
The reality is, the Knights will go as far as Asemota takes them. Despite only being an eleventh grader, the 6’3 guard is ND’s best playmaker, with capable knock down shooters such as Trevon Mollison and Josh Baker.
The 2014 OFSAA championships are highly anticipated as teams across the board are capable of “upsets” and it has been evident in speaking with different coaches and players.
“This season has been different…any team can beat any team, we’re all on the same level, we just have to be back in the gym tomorrow, go hard and practice as much as we can so we can go into OFSAA focused,” said Gould.
When asked about the parody heading into this year’s provincial championships, Zoffraneri takes nothing for granted.
“I always feel that way in every game we play, so I don’t feel any differently about OFSAA. I always feel like any team can beat any body on any given day.”