Lancers bounce past the North Stars in Golden Gator final
by Randy Pascal
The Lasalle Lancers senior boys basketball team have certainly won the Golden Gator Basketball Tournament in prior years.
This time around, however, it wasn't nearly as much of a sure thing.
With the SDSSAA loop displaying far more parity than in the past, especially at the top end of the standings, many were looking forward to seeing how
things would unfold at the 2017 version of the showcase that is staged, every December, by the folks at Bishop A Carter Catholic Secondary School.
Holding a 28-21 lead over the Sudbury Secondary North Stars at half-time of the gold medal encounter, the Lancers would see their advantage shrink
to just a single basket, but would never relinquish it through the final sixteen minutes of play, registering a 63-52 victory in the end.
Michael Babcock paced the winners with 17 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, with Eric Senechal (14) and Andrew Middleton
(12) also hitting double digits. Emeric Fitzpatrick and Noah Blackburn countered with 21 and 12 points respectively for the Stars.
"They have a lot of shooters, a lot of really good shooters," noted Middleton of the silver medal winning side. "Their play style is a bit different,
they're a shoot first team. We really had to push into them."
A grade 10 transfer student from St Charles College, Middleton suggested there is at least one area of the court where he sees a difference with the
Lancer philosophy of basketball. "We really push the defensive side here, we really like to lock down our opponents," he said.
"I find that we have a lot of speed, good court mentality. We can really see the floor. We are always looking for turnovers, to move it quickly to the
fast breaks. Good defense is just working as hard as you can, and stay between your man and the basket."
The Lancers and North Stars are certainly not strangers, having met in the city final last February. "They're a track team, they like to run, they like
that up tempo," noted Lasalle head coach Kyle Beers.
"We like that as well, because it's such a fun style to play, to be a part of. It's always great playing these guys." With feature guard Noah
LaPierre having graduated, now a member of the Brock Badgers, Beers had prepared his team for change.
"We were a lot more methodical in the years before Noah, and then we had Noah for five years and we were able to sit back and let things unfold," he
said. "Now I think we're going back to more of a systems approach that involves all twelve guys."
"Not everybody is going to score 20 points for us," Beers continued. "We're going to have a bunch of guys who can score seven to eight, and those teams
are hard to stop, I think." All of that being said, he still considers his team very much in the mix to capture a fifth straight SDSSAA title in the new
"We are very young, a lot of tens and elevens, only two grade twelves," said Beers. "So we weren't really sure what to expect. We knew there would be
some ups and downs. When we're not thinking about our game plan and it gets away from us, our youth shows and we create some opportunities for the other
"But I really think we can be better than last year's team," Beers continued. "Defensively, we're much better than last year, just with the length and
personnel that we have. We don't even have half of our defensive sets in yet."
Lasalle made it a clean sweep by also walking off with the junior banner, a result of the Lancers 48-30 win over the Franco-Cité Patriotes from
Sturgeon Falls. Morgan Byers paced the winners with 18 points, with David Pigozzo and Anthony Levesque adding 11 each.
Lasalle cruised through their semi-final with a 65-30 triumph over the Horizon Aigles, as Byers (21) once again topped the scoring parade,
joined in double digits by Nick Burke (20) and Levesque (14).
Meanwhile, at the Gold Cup in Timmins, the host Timmins High & Vocational School Blues soared easily above the competition, bouncing the
St Mary's Knights from Sault Ste Marie 80-42 in the senior final.
The Collège Notre Dame Alouettes, still unbeaten in Sudbury league play along with both Lo-Ellen and Lasalle, fell by the wayside in the semis,
beaten by six points by the Knights. The Alouettes juniors lost to Timmins High in the championship final, knocked off in overtime.