That Sudbury Sports Guy: Perennial contenders, new faces in winners’ circle on SDSSAA championship weekend

Kevin Watson (24) of the College Notre Dame Alouettes and Morgan Byers (9) of the Lasalle Lancers come together near the Lasalle basket, while Broedy Grenier (6) of the Lancers also attempts to defend during first-half action at the SDSSAA senior boys basketball championship, held at Lasalle Secondary School in Sudbury, Ontario on Saturday, September 15, 2020. Lasalle won 71-34. Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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Ten city championship banners, covering two different sports, doled out in a period of just slightly more than 24 hours, meant that SDSSAA officials were kept hopping over the course of this past weekend.

And while the list of teams moving on to NOSSA playdowns, with visions of an OFSAA appearance here and there, included many of the expected pre-season favourites, some of the more dramatic finishes came courtesy of age brackets that do not normally grab the spotlight.

At the top of that mountain stood the Hanmer Sabres novice boys basketball team, which overcame an eight-point deficit with three minutes to play and then rode that momentum through their five minute overtime period, besting the College Notre Dame Alouettes 65-60 in the first of the Saturday three-game set that took place at Lasalle Secondary School.

Ashton Giroux (27 points), Jacob Hogue (15) and Mathieu Champagne (11) paced the attack for the winners, with Sebastien Smith showing the way for both teams with a 29-point effort in a losing cause for CND.

“We had control of the game in the first half, but then they pushed back and got the lead,” Hanmer head coach Denis Lessard said. “We were down by eight with three minutes left, but they were in foul trouble and we just chipped away. They had a chance to finish it with about five seconds to play, but the basketball gods were on our side.”

For a school that has hovered right around the 100-student mark for several years now, Ecole secondaire Hanmer is gradually making inroads in keeping elementary athletes closer to home.

“These boys have been with me since Grade 7, so given the fact that they stuck around (for Grade 9), I knew it was going to be a good year,” acknowledged Lessard.

It has also been a very good year for the Lasalle Lancers senior boys team, which made it four straight city titles with a convincing 71-34 win over the College Notre Dame Alouettes, with Liam LaPierre breaking through for no less than 30 points for the hard-court powerhouse.

“I think the preparation for this whole year just started earlier,” suggested Lasalle’s head coach, Joel Rehel. “In mid-August, these guys were asking to get in shape right off the hop. That started them off on the right foot. Usually, we get that lull, at some point in the season, but we just haven’t had that this year.”

Setting the tone for the boys basketball crew on Friday night, the Chelmsford Flyers junior boys edged the Lively Hawks 73-71 at Bishop Carter, riding a three-pronged attack to victory in Division II action. Anthony Campbell and Riley Herden each drilled home 17 points for the CVDCS crew, with Donald Meilleur adding 15, while Brek Morrow (31) and Ryan Remington (28) carried the offence for the Hawks.

In senior Division II play, the Bishop Alexander Carter Gators and head coach Jeff Mousseau closed out a perfect 12-0 season, downing the Lively Hawks 54-31. Andrew Lewis and Riley Tessier were the go-to guys, on offence for the Gators, while Josh MacNeil and Mark Smith were absolute beasts on the boards.

Where the basketball finals were spread over two days at a pair of venues, College Boreal served as host to all five of the girls volleyball finals on Friday. The Division I junior encounter was be the only match to go the distance, as the Lo-Ellen Park Knights outlasted the College Notre Dame Alouettes 25-16, 25-20, 9-25, 21-25, 15-11.

The victory was the middle of a perfect sweep for the Knights in Division I competition, the evening affair wrapping things up in style as Lo-Ellen stopped Notre Dame 25-22, 26-24, 25-17. After finishing second to CND in league play, the senior Knights enjoyed a reversal of fortunes on Friday, capturing a battle that was among the more highly anticipated matchups of the day.

Members of the Lo-Ellen Park Knights senior girls volleyball team pose with their SDSSAA championship banner. Photo supplied

“We went in knowing we could win, but also feeling like the underdogs,” said coach Steven Dunlop, who shared the head coaching duties, throughout the year, with Sheldon Root. “I thought this was really a true team effort. We had a couple of big guns come through for us, with Hannah (Nordquist) and Lauren (Jeanneault) both able to put the ball away.

“Our middles (Erika Brown/Briele Bisaillon) ran hard runs and put up a good blocking front, and Amelina (Itturegui), in the back court, just passed dimes, and was also quite adept at picking up a number of hard hit balls, keeping the play alive.”

“We were down 24-20 in the second set and Sami (Dunlop) finished the game with her serves, which showed a lot of heart,” added the coach. “We had Danielle (Stinson) able to come in and serve, at key times, and Kyla (Parsons) and Sydney (Melanson) able to come off the bench and play.”

“And we wouldn’t be anywhere without our setter, Sophie (Gaffney), who was able to quarterback our offence and played strong defence as well.” After taking part in the OFSAA AAA championships last March, Lo-Ellen is hoping to crack through at the AA level this year.

There might not be an OFSAA appearance on the line for the Chelmsford Flyers senior girls team, but that did not stop co-coach Glenn Murray, who joins both Sarah Jokinen and Liza Albrecht on the bench, from beaming about the performance of their team.

“We wanted to achieve our number one goal, to defend the banner we won at juniors last year, and get a chance to move up to Division I next year,” said Murray, as the Flyers stopped the Marymount Regals 25-18, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21.

“Ellis Albrecht gave everything she had getting to balls that should have been unplayable. Somehow, she turned terrible passes into really nice sets. Elizabeth Pratt was a force at the net. In fact, all in all, our defence came up big.”

Rounding out the parade of champions were the Lo-Ellen novice Knights, 26-24, 15-25, 25-18, 25-20 winners over the Bishop Carter Gators, and the Marymount junior Regals, who took home the Division II banner with a 25-21, 14-25, 27-25, 25-18 triumph over the Sacre Coeur Griffons.

With the planned full-day strike this coming Friday, much of NOSSA tournament play will be shifted to Feb. 24 and 25, at sites across Northern Ontario. 

Randy Pascal is That Sudbury Sports Guy. His column runs regularly in The Sudbury Star. Contact him at info@sudburysports.com.

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