A solid pre-tournament seeding helped the Lasalle Lancers at the OFSAA "AA" Boys Basketball Championships this week.
Unfortunately, a key injury right out of the gate hurt them more.
Game seven of the provincial playdowns in Windsor was but a minute or two old when smooth-shooting guard Liam LaPierre was felled with an ankle injury that would sideline him for the entire event.
The 7th seeded Lancers would manage to overcome the adversity in game one, slipping past OLur Lady of Lourdes Crusaders (#13) from Elmvale, 47-43, but Lasalle proved no match for the #12 seed Riverside Rebels from Windsor, bounced to the consolation side of the draw following a 74-40 setback.
The locals would recover on day two to extend their time at OFSAA by at least one more game, outscoring the Anderson CVI Raiders from Whitby 75-42, as Brennan LaPierre (25 pts) and Andrew Middleton (17) paced the attack.
But the end of the line would come later that day as the John Paul II Jaguars from London toppled the NOSSA champs 61-54, bringing to a close the high school careers of the Lasalle starting five of Brennan and Liam LaPierre, Andrew Middleton, Noah Carpino and Morgan Byers.
It was not the final chapter that the team envisioned, when we met at their final pre-OFSAA practice last Friday at Lasalle. "Making it to OFSAA is a big deal for all of us, that was our mission this year," suggested Liam LaPierre.
"I think as long as we compete to the best of our ability, work the hardest we can, leave it all out there, I am fine with the outcome."
An undersized team by provincial "AA" standards, the Lancers knew that their key to success relied on the same elements that paved the way to an impressive 45-7 record this year.
"I think it really comes down to our defence, because our offense comes from our defence," said LaPierre. "If we're playing tough, getting steals, running it out in transition, then we're pretty hard to beat."
"With our defence, we know how to play for bigger sets, because we are a smaller team," added Middleton, now 18 years of age and heading to Laurentian University in the fall. "We play a lot of help defence."
"In our zone, we'll collapse on the big mn, because we just don't have that many people that can defend that way. Offensively, we use our speed," Middleton added. "We're small, but fast. That's our strong suit, so that's how we usually play."
"I think the results show it, we've had an amazing year."
That they have. And it was one which held plenty of intrigue heading into their final few games of the year.
"I'm just looking forward to playing at that competitive level," said Morgan Byers, who leaves in Septemebr for Mohawk College in Hamilton, his sights set on becoming an electrician.
"We don't get that level of competitiveness up here. Going down to Windsor and playing these teams is going to be really interesting, pushing our team to the limits that we have. We don't get pushed that far up here in Sudbury."
"We'll have to bring our best to compete, but I don't see us not being able to compete."
The 2019-2020 edition of the Lasalle Lancers senior boys basketball team brings together Kyle Brouillette, Braeden Pakkala, Andrew Middleton, Noah Carpino, Tyson Belland, Nick Burke, Liam LaPierre, Brennan LaPierre, Morgan Byers, Broedy Grenier, Sybastian Drew, Adam Bertrand, Brian Nelson and head coach Joel Rehel.