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Quality Inn - Sudbury
Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Jam Major Midget boys come up a little short
by Randy Pascal

The Sudbury Jam U16 Major Midget Boys came up short, on a couple of counts, at the Division #4 2018 Ontario Cup Provincial Championships in Kanata this past weekend.

With serious aspirations of capturing a medal, if not prevailing in a group where they were confident they matched up well, the locals eventually settled for a victory in the encounter of third place teams. To boot, a defaulted game meant one less chance for the boys to test themselves in the nation's capital.

The turning point came early, as the Jam struggled in their opener, dropping a 68-45 decision to the Oakville Vytis, the squad that would go on to win bronze. They produced a much better effort on Saturday morning, trimmed 61-59 by CKATT (Cooksville Kids Athletic Team Training), with this opponent then capturing first place in Pool "A" with a 74-64 win over Oakville.

Meanwhile, the Jam hit the win column in game three, just not in the manner they hoped, as the Chatham Kent Wildcats did not make their way to Ottawa, forfeiting all four of their games.

With a record of 1-2, the Jam faced the Thornhill Thunder on Sunday morning, prevailing 46-42. This marked the team's first appearance at the Ontario Cup under the direction of rookie head coach Will Stevens, taking over in 2017-2018 from previous mentor Eric Maag.

"It was a little bit of an adjustment," Stevens noted last week, just prior to the team's final practice before provincials. "It's a different thing for me, moving from an assistant to head coach. We were in that transitional mode."

On the court, the shift has been much more seamless. "Honestly, I don't feel that there has been much of a change," said Stevens. "We play a very defensive-minded type of game, that really hasn't changed. Our team is still really fast, so we always try and emphasize our fast breaks. That's been the same for the last three years."

One of several core players who have remained with this group, Ta Mbvaimbai of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary concurs with the assessment of the new head coach. "We were already fast, but we were a pretty short team compared to a lot of teams, we wanted to improve our rebounding and stuff, and probably our transition game."

"Our coach always tells us three main things about rebounding: locate, cut off and box out. Every single time a shot goes up, we always look for a man, try and get our body on him and get that rebound."

When executed perfectly, you will find one very happy young man patrolling the sidelines. "Sometimes, when you tell them something and they go out on the court and it happens, they kind of look at you like you know what you're talking about - some times," said Stevens with a laugh.

"That's much more satisfying than scoring 30 with my men's league team." Individually, Mbvaimbai has used the extra court time that club basketball season provides to continue to refine his game as a point guard.

"My role is getting my teammates involved, most of the time," stated the 15 year-old grade 10 student. "I know I have some really good scorers on this team. If I can get them the ball and put them in the best situation to score, that's pretty much my main priority, to get as many assists as possible. The points will always be there."

Rounding out the 2017-2018 Sudbury Jam 16U boys' roster are Brennan Maag, Chris Valcin, Noah Carpino, Anthony Levesque, Carter Rouillard, Eric Huneault, Andrew Middleton, Morgan Byers and Reuben Winch.

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