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Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2019
A very thorough high-school boys basketball round-up
by Randy Pascal

If things are slowing down in the high-school sports scene these days, with Christmas right around the corner, someone has forgotten to tell everyone involved with boys basketball apparently.

Another busy stretch of schedule would see teams, again, mixing in league and tournament play, both locally and out of town. Out in Hanmer, the annual Gator Invitational at Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School would produce a whole slew of finals, starting Saturday afternoon and leading well into the night.

The grand finale would see the Lasalle Lancers defeat the White Pines Wolverines from Sault Ste Marie, 80-55, in the senior final, while the Macdonald-Cartier Panthères outscored the host Bishop Carter Gators 61-36 in the consolation encounter.

In junior play, White Pines stopped Lasalle 55-48 (championship final), while the Horizon Aigles secured the junior consolation banner thanks to a 69-24 decision over the Lively Hawks.

For the five-time defending SDSSAA champs from Lasalle, you can throw the tournament triumph on top of a 6-0 start to the regular season, though the team did find themselves challenged moreso in the semi-finals, working their way past the Franco-Cité Patriotes from Sturgeon Falls.

"The Franco game gave us some early problems," noted Lancer head head coach Joel Rehel. "They're very big, with wide kids, very physical. We aren't a physical team, and when you see those match-ups, I get a little worried."

The Lancers will join the Lo-Ellen Park Knights in heading to Orillia for tournament play in early January. "We will see some of the best "AA" schools there," noted Rehel. "St Joe's, Frontenac, Orillia and GL Roberts are all very strong teams who have done well in tournaments down south. I'm looking forward to seeing how we measure up."

The Lasalle roster, this year, includes Liam LaPierre, Brennan LaPierre, Andrew Middleton, Mike Babcock, Nick Carpino, Mike Batista, Kyle Brouillette, Broedy Grenier, Nick Burke, Morgan Byers, Eric Senechal, Adam Bertrand and R.J. Hanna.

One has to look no further than the Knights' 2-4 record, currently, to understand the depth of talent competing in the Sudbury Division I high-school ranks this year, especially when you consider that Lo-Ellen lost by exactly one point (46-45) to Lasalle at the beginning of the month.

Coach Mac Bertrand and company dusted themselves off following a tough week, travelling to Guelph for a tournament in which veteran Abraham Soumahoro stood out, earning all-star status at the event.

The 2018-2019 edition of the Lo-Ellen senior boys team features Bobby Sinclair, Brodie Erwin, Callum Bruser, Carter Smrke, Damon Maltais, Fraser Larocque, Jacob Schweyer, Jamie Edkins, Patrick Thom, Ta Mbvaimbvai, as well as Soumahoro.

Powered by a 16 point performance from Miguel Poulin and another 13 from Cédric Lessard (as well as seven points each from Jamie Wahamaa and Michael Laliberté), Macdonald-Cartier evened their season series with Lo-Ellen thanks to a 52-44 win, only to close out the 2018 portion of their calendar with setbacks against the Lockerby Vikings (50-44) and the Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes (51-48).

As for the Als, all three of their boys' teams remain in the thick of their respective races. With a record of 5-1, the seniors from CND travelled to Barrie (Georgian College) for a tournament last week, beating the Joan of Arc Angels from Mississauga, losing to Nantyr Shores Secondary School in Innisfil, and eliminated in quarter-final action by the St Mary's Warriors from Woodstock.

The CND juniors, who are among a large handful of local teams that are reasonably evenly matched, also attended the same tournament, beating Barrie North to get through to the final four before falling at the hands of Nantyr Shores.

A surprise entry among the top dogs in the early going of the Junior Division I ranks has been the Ecole Secondaire Hanmer Sabres, a school which traditionally has struggled to reach middle-of-the-pack status within the Division II standings.

Not the case in 2018-2019, as coach Denis Lessard and company picked up wins in three of their first four games, including victories over both the Confederation Chargers (41-30) and the St Benedict Bears (49-44).

"We're pretty much all kids that have been on the same team for several years, from fifth grade until now," noted 6'1" 15 year old Médéric Bourdon. "That really helps with team chemistry and having set plays."

Good thing, because depth in the lineup of the school with a total enrollment of just over one hundred can be an issue, at times. "We got some new players," acknowledged Evan Cotnoir, another one of the core group of athletes on this team that transition seamlessly from the volleyball season through to basketball.

"We didn't have a lot of people last year, so it helps to have a few more. We had some players who started in eighth grade, but didn't play a lot, but they have practiced and practiced." With a lack of perimeter shooting, the junior Sabres rely heavily on a mix of a solid inside presence, offensively, and a very keen attention to detail at the other end of the court.

"A big part of it, for us, is defense, and it's a part of the game where we excel," said Bourdon. "We've been putting a lot of emphasis on defense. Help side is very important, knowing your spot and your man. We usually read when our defender does not have good position on the attacker, that's when we usually help."

"Sometimes, just kowing who is defending, you can really tell if they are going to be able to stop them or not." On Tuesday, the Hanmer lads went toe to toe with a perennial junior Division I contender, dropping a 45-42 decision to the Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes.

This was just the latest affirmation that the small Valley school has progressed to the point of being relevant in the discussion with the likes of CND, St Charles, Lasalle and Horizon this year.

"We just wanted to play competitively," noted Cotnoir of his team's pre-season mindset. "We knew that we wouldn't do great, but we are doing good now." The 2018-2019 version of Hanmer junior boys basketball is comprised of Ryan Lavigne, Zach Roy, Noah Beaulne, Ian Aubin, Zach Houle, Miguel Chevalier, as well as Médéric Boudron and Evan Cotnoir.

Closing things off with the youngest of the age brackets, the Notre-Dame Alouette midgets are also right in the thick of their race for first place, just back of the Lo-Ellen Park Knights (5-0), with coach Andy Pellerin and company winners in five of their first six outings.

Pellerin has leaned heavily upon the trio of Zacharie Demers, Pierson Sobush and Nico Simmon to show the way in the early stages of the 2018-2019 campaign. "Their leadership comes in the form of hard work and court communication, and for this age group, is a real luxury for a coach," he said.

Participants in a pair of junior tournaments, the CND midgets were eliminated in the semi-finals on both occasions, showing signs of both the potential of this grouping, along with the inconsistency that is often prevalent with grade nine secondary school teams.

"We compete, at times, at a very high level, and at times, not so much," said Pellerin. "That's what it's like to coach a young group, but it's a lot of fun, nonetheless." The Notre-Dame midgets boast a roster of Jean Kessie, Max Rouselle, Sheldon Berry, Vincent Lavoie, Emmanel Soro, Mathew Patay, Jack Sloan, Beau D'Aoult, as well as the troika of Demers, Sobush and Simmon.

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