It’s that time of year again, AAAA OFSAA Basketball Championship in Windsor, Ontario. The most coveted trophy for high school basketball in Canada has been held up by Toronto powerhouses, Oakwood (2013-2014) and St. Michael’s (2012-2013) over the past two seasons. This year St. Michael’s College comes in as a heavy favourite to win it all with a 33-0 record against Canadian teams.
SMC was knocked out early last year, but it seems unlikely to happen again considering the way that the seedings fell into place. St. Edmund Campion, to me, is the team that will meet St. Mike’s in the finals.
They have a core group that matches up well with teams across the board and also have a razzle-dazzle freshman point guard, Joel Brown lives for these moments.
NCAA and CIS coaches will be following the high school madness routinely as this tournament has become a hot spot for post-secondary recruiting. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve been pondering over the last week.
First Round Fury
St. Mary’s is in a tough spot as the #9 seed because they’ll be jousting with Vaughan in the first round. The Vaughan Voyageurs must being fuming with their seeding at 10 considering the teams that are ahead of them with weaker schedules and less of a reputation.
Vaughan comes in to the tournament about three spots lower than they should be seeded so will be coming in to prove a point early on.
They are a disciplined bunch lead by freshman guard Andrew Nembhard. His ability to draw double teams on penetration will be maximized against this jittery St. Mary’s Eagles flock.
Yes, you guessed correct, The St. Michael’s Blue Raiders. They are playing with a level of poise and togetherness that has not been matched on the high school scene this year.
Championship experience and many tough tests against American competition this season has them prepared for the road ahead. Five wins stand in their way before they can call themselves provincial champions again.
The senior leadership of Nelson Kaputo is to be credited for how well these guys are meshing. Everyone is held accountable and understands that there is no “me” before the team. Head Coach Jeff Zownir is the master mind behind this well spaced and executed offense.
SMC is able to set the tempo and get open looks often, this is something that sets them apart. Now add the fact that their set shooters are knock down…opponents are in trouble.
They’re feeling like the Kentucky Wildcats right now on Canadian soil. A perfect season of 33-0 is on the line. If they win OFSAA they’ll be the third team to ever have done so with a perfect season.
According to the Canadian high school basketball encyclopedia, Branko Samsa, Cathedral (Hamilton) and Lisgar (Ottawa) were they only others to do so in 1968 and 1974 respectively.
FHC Deepest Team At OFSAA
Head Coach of the Father Henry Carr Crusaders, Paul Melnik comes into 2014-2015 OFSAA with 21 years of experience in this Champinship tournament; as a student assistant, assistant coach and head coach.
His tone gave off a good deal of gratification towards this year’s Crusader squad.
“I’m proud of these guys, we’re peaking at the right time. People can defend us in many ways and we can attack in different ways, so there will always be an option.”
His team has evolved many times over this season and understand what is on the line. The Crusaders’ lead guard Marcus Bonnick, depending on what his team needs can be a facilitator or huge scoring option, creating for himself or coming off of screens. Bonnick comes in with two OFSAA finals appearances under his belt.
“Knowing its my last year, me and all the 5th year guys have to really step it up and set a standard for the juniors. Tristan, Lamar, Kyle and myself have been here before, we know what to expect, just have to come out and play our game,” Bonnick explains.
FHC’s advantage in this type of playing format is their depth and size. It won’t matter as much in the opening rounds, but as teams begin to feel the fatigue of the quarter-finals onward, that’s when they’re in a good position to lock their teeth in and take advantage.
Bonnick comments on the long bench.
“We can go as far as 14 deep and everyone coming off the bench will be able to produce in one way or another. The trust factor is there.”
Look out for this team to be a top contender and go deep in this tournament as they usually do.
Bishop Reding Biggest Turnaround
Although they are made up of mainly grade 11 kids, the Bishop Reding Royals had high expectation weighing in on them coming into the high school season.
“The potential has always been there, now they’re figuring it out and learning that more offense is coming to the team and we’re getting better looks at the basket when the ball is moving.”
They were quickly initiated to senior level basketball at the start of the season, taking multiple whoopings in prime time events. Since then, Jordan Brathwaite has stepped up as a play maker which has allowed Christian David to operate and create space for others.
At least three guys are capable of going for twenty points in a game; Christian David, Jordan Brathwaite and Xavier Ochu. Pick your poison.
Role definition and a mental buy-in to the teams offense has these guys clicking coming into OFSAA.
“The story with us all season has been that we couldn’t put together two strong halves up until now. If we’re going to play top ranked teams we simply can’t afford to do that,” said Coach Alana Juzenas after capturing the GHAC championship.
The Royals will face the #2 seeded St. Edmund Campion Bears in the first round. It’s not impossible, but it will be extremely difficult to take these guys out, it would be an upset and a half. If the Royals were to lose game one, they would still have a chance to advance if they can take out #5 seed Pine Ridge.
Pine Ridge Confidence Way Up
Two weeks ago, Pine Ridge was coming off of their LOSAA regional championship and heading into an exhibition at the UPlay Winter Showcase where they would hang with La Lumiere, who is a top team from America.
That experience has given them a ton of confidence coming into Windsor, with their first match against Bishop Reding.
Lead point guard Jordan Henry has been spectacular for them all season and carried them on many occasions in tight games. In order for them to make a deep run here, they will need strong contributions from Chase Vassell, Nevell Provo and other key players.
d’Youville Toughest Road To Finals
Based on prediction, d’Youville could meet Brampton city rival, Campion, again for the last time this season. Their last meeting was at ROPSAA finals, where Campion took care of business, picking up their first ever ROPSAA title.
Of the upper echelon teams in this tournament, they have the hardest road to the finals starting with their first game against Scarborough’s Pope John Paul II, the second against pre-season #1 ranked St. Mary’s and then Father Henry Carr. This is of course, IF all my picks to win are correct.
From a position standpoint, they have all the soldiers ready to take the front line. PG – Keshon Montague, SG – Christien Gould and multiple positions playing the forward position and protecting the paint.