Lancers look to reverse recent trend
by Randy Pascal
Taking a quick glance at the NOSSA (Northern Ontario Secondary School Athletics) high-school boys basketball championships, the results are absolutely
startling. Not a single local entry has captured a "AA" or "AAA" banner in the past seven years.
One has to go back to the 2006 Lasalle Secondary boys team to find a Sudbury entry to OFSAA in this grouping, with the Lancers making three straight
treks to "AAA" provincials. On the "AA" side of the ledger, one has to look back to the 1977 Lively Hawks to find a northern Ontario champion based
out of the Nickel City.
It's a trend that the current group of Lasalle Lancers want to bring to an end...immediately. The 2013-2014 squad will enter the playoffs this
week as favourites to capture the city crown, with the "Lancerdome" slated as the host venue to the NOSSA "AA" championship game on February 22nd.
With back to back losses in the grand finale, the current wave of Lasalle hardcourt talent is fixated on reversing the trend. "We definitely have worked
harder to get to our goal this year more than other years," said veteran Alex Mobbs, now in his third year with the team.
"The fifth year guys have lost the past couple of NOSSA finals and that has driven us even more this year." Though coach Kyle Beers is now in his
sixth year at Lasalle Secondary, it's only his second year guiding the senior crew.
Still, he brings an interesting background to the NOSSA landscape that has been heavily tilted in favour of the Sault Ste Marie schools. "A lot of the
boys in the Soo are also big time football players, which often means that they are big time into the weights," Beers stated.
"They're big inside and they can shoot outside. They have strong, really dedicated coaches there. I was privileged enough to play for some of them
during my time at Algoma," he added.
Yet there is a definite sense that things could be different this year. In part, this is due to the mix of talent doting the Lancer lineup, a nice blend
of experienced leadership with a crop of upcoming talent.
That second wave is led by guard Noah LaPierre, already establishing himself as one of the best guards in Northern Ontario despite just completing
his second year at Lasalle. For an underage player thrust into a front and center role, the setting can often prove challenging.
If LaPierre has handled the situation well, it's thanks in large part to the acceptance provided by the senior classmen. "In the summer I was coming in
for grade nine, everyone was so welcoming, and they're all such nice guys," LaPierre said.
"They made me feel like one of the guys right away, they showed a lot of confidence in me. It's fun to play with them." With a boatload of tournament
experience under the collective belts, much of it facing top-end talent from across the province, the Lancers have developped a pretty solid gauge of keys
to victory when facing worthy adversaries.
"When we work hard, when everyone is locked in, when everything is clicking, we can compete with the best "AA" teams in Ontario," said LaPierre. "We have
size, we have shooters, we have guys that are pretty crafty."
"We need to focus on keeping calm and relaxing on the court," added Mobbs. "When we get out of control, we don't play our best basketball." But if there
is one common thread, when chatting with coaches and players alike, it's the chemistry and friendship that has been created within this year's team.
It's an environment that is apparent even with newcomer Kurtis Brisebois, a grade 11 three-point shooting specialist. "All of us hang around all
the time, we do everything together," said the 16 year-old, first inspired to take up basketball seriously in grade 8, thanks to fellow Northeastern
Public classmate, Noah LaPierre.
"I know other teams do things together," Brisebois added. "I just think we do it more than other teams. You can see it when we're out on the court."
While the Lancers are focused, first and foremost, on retaining the SDSSAA banner, thoughts often turn to what should be an exceptional NOSSA final, with
the strong likelihood of a matchup with either Korah or St Basil's on the horizon.
Coach Beers, for one, has given it some thought. "Both teams are exceptional shooting teams, so we have to close out on shooters quickly," he noted.
"We have to do a really good job of cleaning up the glass."
And, like the players in his stead, Beers hopes to see the fruits of many hours of dedicated labour. "These guys play hard for each other and hard for the
coaching staff," he said. "It's nice to be able to sit back and let them play a little bit more this year."