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Imperial Collision Centre
Northern Chill Volleyball Club
Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2018
A high-school boys basketball playoff preview
2018-02-12
by Randy Pascal


The Lasalle Lancers might well lay claim to a fifth straight senior boys Division “A” basketball championship come Saturday. This year, however, there is at least an element of intrigue to that discussion according to the folks who follow the circuit closely.

Certainly, it would be foolish to discard the Lancers 9-0 regular season record, one that was compiled in spite of the graduation of the dominating presence in recent years that was Noah LaPierre.

“At the beginning of the season, we had high hopes, but we really didn’t know where we would end up with this particular crew, being so young,” noted Lasalle head coach Kyle Beers, who has returned, yet again, with assistant Joel Rehel at his side. “We knew we had some athletic kids, some talented kids, skill-wise, but putting all of that skill into our systems was a question mark.”

And, of course, there was the small matter of trying to replace all that LaPierre brought to the table before moving on to the Brock Badgers of the OUA. “Mike Babcock has definitely stepped into a larger role, kind of forced into a role,” Beers continued. “But he welcomed that opportunity and has looked forward to it for years.”

“He’s learned from some great guards, he’s very cerebral, and we have him for another.” In fact, if there is a defining theme to the 2017-2018 senior Lancers, it lies in their combination of youth and depth. For the first time that he can remember, Beers is in a situation where every single one of the 12 players on his roster this year can return in September.

On the inside, Lasalle can trot out a three player rotation with Nathan Scully, Eric Senecal and Joseph Deni, each of whom offers a slightly different look for opposing defenses. “Our bigs have really stepped up, which is something new for us, because we’ve had such strong guards the past few seasons.” In Scully and Senecal, Beers and Rehel had known commodities, both players intricately aware of the nuances of the game on the court.

Converting from an accomplished swimmer to a presence in the paint, Deni has been a revelation. “He’s doing a lot of things that we didn’t know we were going to be able to do,” said Beers. “He’s got an uncanny knack for finishing under the rim. He’s got a 6’7” wing span and uses it so well."

Moving away from the basket, Lasalle can look to either twins Liam and Brennan LaPierre to provide some offensive punch, or the grade 10 tandem of Andrew Middleton and Noah Carpino. “It’s been a really good year with these guys,” said Beers. “We’re really having fun exploring where these guys can go. We would like to get our feet wet (at OFSAA), get the experience so that the shock when we want to go down with a team that is ready to medal is a little easier to handle.”

If Mike Babcock has earned “breakthrough” player honours at Lasalle, there is little doubt that Callum Bruser deserves the same accolades across town at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. “Callum has made some pretty big leaps, offensively, becoming a pretty dynamic scorer this year,” said Lo-Ellen coach Mac Bertrand.

Truth be told, this was something of an expected payback for the Knights, who opted to bring up three juniors one year ago (Bruser, Abraham Soumahoro, Carter Smrke) to compete at the senior level. The additional experienced garnered in 2016-2017 has allowed the current campaign to flow much more according to plan.

“What we expected is that the league would be competitive and we knew we had a good team,” said Bertrand. “To finish the league at 8-1, we’re pretty happy. Obviously, we didn’t feel like we played very well when we played Lasalle. I think we can still get better, but we’re pretty happy with how the season has gone and how we’ve developed.”

Perhaps nowhere has this development been more noticeable than through the efforts of Jared Scott, a converted hockey player. “He wasn’t much of a basketball player last year,” said Bertrand. “Now, he plays pretty big minutes for us. He’s come a long way, so that’s really helped.”

Still, Bertrand counts himself only as perhaps cautiously optimistic heading into post-season play that begins Monday night on two fronts. “The field is deep and anybody can lose if they have a bad day, so we need to play well no matter who we see,” noted Bertrand. “We’re going to have to play really good defensively. Whoever we play is going to defend well, so we’re going to have to figure out ways to score in the half court. We’re really good in transition, but when we’re really clicking, we need to do both – that’s the key for us.”

The likelihood of a really good three team race emerging in the senior boys ranks hit a bit of a bump in the road when the College Notre Dame Alouettes lost the services of sharp-shooting guard Felix Tubin to injury. “He’s a big loss, a 25 points per game type of player,” confessed CND head coach Martin Nadeau. “Some of those kids know they have to step up and fill in those shoes. They know they have to adapt. We’re hoping to be there on that Saturday, into the finals, that’s for sure.”

For that to happen, a steady nucleus that includes Hunter Adams, Anthony Rogerson and Eric Atoh (dealing with some back issues) will all have to make their presence felt. And then there is the remaining guard, still on the floor, in the person of Mathieu Gareau. "He’s a very good ball distributor, reads the play very well,” said Nadeau. “Part of the reason why we get so many open looks is that he creates that spacing, attacks the gaps to open up the shooters.”

“But he can also shoot the ball and be very creative when attacking the rim. He can move to a shoot first instead of pass first type of mentality.” Throw in the wildcard that is the Sudbury Secondary North Stars and their assembly of three point specialist from all corners of the court and one has the makings of a road to city finals that should prove compelling.

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