Falcons, Green Gaels advance to meet in senior hoops final

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Whichever team gets to hold the championship plaque Saturday afternoon at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre, it’ll be representing a school that does not have a lot of District 10 high school senior boys’ basketball championships to its credit.

The Centre Wellington Falcons of Fergus and the Guelph CVI Green Gaels are to battle in the championship final Saturday at 2 p.m. after both won tight semifinal matches Thursday.

The Falcons are looking for their first ever title in the senior boys’ hoops loop while GC has won the title twice, but it has been 43 years since the last time they won according to the D10 website. GCVI’s title wins came in 1966 and ’74.

Thursday’s semifinals were both close affairs, Centre Wellington needing overtime to oust the Centennial Spartans 55-54 and GCVI slipping by the St. James Lions 58-53.

The games were expected to be close affairs as the top four had been separated by a single win at the end of the regular season – St. James and Centre Wellington finishing at 11-3 and Centennial and GCVI finishing at 10-4.

At Fergus, Camden la Bastide sank two free throws with a second to go in a four-minute overtime period to give the host Falcons the win over Centennial.

“I could say that’s an area of my game I could definitely improve,” la Bastide said minutes after those free throws gave him a game-high 23 points. “I missed two in a row at one point in the second half, but I hit them when they counted.”

“We won it on the foul line which is kind of ironic because Camden has struggled a bit this year,” Centre Wellington coach Jeff Brubacher said. “He hit two big ones and he’s been a lot better in the last week and a half which is really good for us.”

A little extra time at practice spent on shooting free throws paid off.

“We knew in playoffs we’d have to do a lot more so we’ve been putting them under pressure situations and hitting foul shots and, hopefully, hammering home the importance of making your shots from the line,” Brubacher said.

When la Bastide stepped to the line to take the deciding shots, he admitted not thinking of much at all.

“I just kind of blanked out at that point,” he said. “This is probably my last year here so I didn’t want it to end here. I wanted it to keep moving on.”

Centre Wellington’s scoring was handled by four players as Cole Newton added 16 points and Nate Scott and Mitch Rose-Janes each had eight.

Tommy Nield led Centennial with 18 while Bruno Bertoli had 14 and Dylan Jamieson and Jake Warywoda each had eight.

For the semifinal, both Centre Wellington and Centennial stepped up their defensive games.

“Centennial had been scoring a lot of points lately, but as it turned out our defences kind of shut each other down and it was almost a war of attrition as we went on,” Brubacher said.

Both teams also struggled hitting baskets from the paint, some of it due to the defensive efforts of their opponents.

“That’s definitely something we need to improve on for the final on Saturday,” la Bastide said.

“We missed so many little opportunities and that’s what hurt us,” Brubacher said. “I thought when we had that seven- or eight-point lead, we could’ve stretched it out and we didn’t. We let them back in.”

At St. James, Kyle Kush led GCVI with 15 points while Ben Tofil added 14. Alex Durigon had a game-high 24 for St. James and Aidan Feeney contributed eight.

Centre Wellington and GCVI split their regular-season meetings with Centre Wellington winning 51-44 at Fergus Dec. 8 and GCVI winning 72-56 at home Feb. 9.

The junior final, slated for Saturday at 12 noon at the Gryphons Athletics Centre, pits the Lourdes Crusaders against the Centennial Spartans.

Lourdes has won the junior title twice, in 2000 and ’03 while Centennial has won it seven times, the last one in 2006.

Thursday’s semifinals went to the visiting teams as Centennial edged the St. James Lions 50-49 and Lourdes downed the Centre Wellington Falcons 52-39.

Hadi El-Miari struck for 17 points for Centennial in the win over GCVI while Dellan Ahmad had 20 for the Gaels.

Abraham Kayeye connected for a game-high 17 points for Lourdes in its semifinal victory while David Mokonen had nine. Brock Newton and Zach Cudmore each had 12 for Centre Wellington.

Centennial finished the regular season third at 10-4 – they were tied with GCVI but lost on the tie-breaking procedure – while Lourdes was fourth at 7-6.

The Spartans won both regular-season meetings with the Crusaders, but they were both close games as Centennial won 54-51 at home Dec. 8 and 51-46 at Lourdes Jan. 18.