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Home > Articles > High School Sports > Golden Eagles win EOSSAA basketball championship; bound for OFSAA

Golden Eagles win EOSSAA basketball championship; bound for OFSAA

Posted: February 27th, 2015 @ 9:49pm


SMITHS FALLS—Sydenham Golden Eagles aren’t just going to the provincial high school AA basketball tournament; they’re going as the eastern Ontario champions.

You can’t put too fine a point on that, Eagles coach Shaun Kennedy believes.

“There was a lot on the line,” Kennedy said, after Sydenham defeated the Smiths Falls Redhawks 47-28 in the championship game of the Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association AA tournament Friday afternoon.

“There were a lot of seeding ramifications for OFSAA that were going to come out of this tournament,” Kennedy explained. “Even though we both advance, we had an early loss in our season to Smith Falls in a tournament. We knew the importance of the seeding going into this game.

“We had to close the season with a win over Smiths Falls.”

Here’s why:

The higher seeding you have at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament, the lower the seed of the opponent you will draw in the first round. OFSAA tournaments are false double-knockout: You can lose your first game but not your second. So, for instance, a team that wins and loses is eliminated; a team that loses but then wins goes on. Many see this as a fundamental flaw that two teams, both 1-1, receive different fates but that’s the way it’s been at OFSAA for years.

“We don’t want to go to OFSAA and have a really tough first match,” Kennedy said. “We want to win our first game so we play a (first-round) loser in the second round.

“We want a favourable draw early on, to position ourselves for the second game, get to the quarter-finals, and go from there.”

It was suggested Friday that Sydenham might find itself seeded as high as in the top three. There are reasons for that—the Eagles came out of a conference with triple-A schools and beat them all; they’re now 17-0 in regular- and post-season play, and they won their games at EOSSAA, against the region’s best, decisively, by 35, 29, 30 and 19 points. The competition committee will also note that Sydenham lost to the Redhawks in a tournament early in the year, and just now beat them in their own gym, shutting them out in the fourth quarter, no less.

Sydenham emerged undefeated in four games from the EOSSAA tournament, though it was a much tougher slog against Smiths Falls than it had been in any of the three previous games.

The Eagles led 12-5 in the first quarter, but only 13-11 at the end of the period; the lead was just 16-15 when Sydenham called time out with 3:38 to play in the second quarter, and it was down to four points, 23-19, when Smiths Falls scored the first basket of the second half.

The visitors slowly built the lead to 10 points by the end of the third quarter, and they scored the only nine points of the final period.

For much of their first-half doldrums, probably about seven minutes altogether, Sydenham was playing with Ben Lusk—“our true scorer,” Kennedy said—on the bench, with two early fouls.

“That threw a wrench into the plans,” Kennedy said. “We let him sit and it was back and forth, back and forth … but then we pulled out one of the things we’ve been working on, our 1-2-2 trap, and it seemed to give us a lift. We got a couple of turnovers and that sort of lifted us.

“At that point we were able to insert Ben back into the game and elevate our scoring. We needed to pull away.”

That’s exactly what happened. Turnovers led to baskets by Kyle Tobin and Lusk, and then Lusk hit a three-pointer, all in rapid succession, taking the lead from one point to eight in less than a minute.

Even though they couldn’t seem to shake their opponent for the longest time, Sydenham guard Tom Withey said he and his teammates weren’t concerned.

“We’re always calm,” he said. “At halftime, nobody’s freaking out because it’s a close game. (We knew) we just had to play our game, get our stops, slow it down enough and we’d be fine.”

Devin Wilkinson had been a dominant player throughout the tournament for Smiths Falls, scoring, for instance, his team’s first nine points in a semifinal win over Kemptville St. Michael Friday morning. He led his team with 13 points in the final, but he scored just one three-point basket, the only one his team was able to get.

Denying the three-point shot, and disarming Wilkinson in particular, clearly was vital to the Sydenham cause.

“They have a lot of three-point shooters,” Withey said, “and (Wilkinson) can really shoot the ball well. We’ve got a lot of height, so no one really scores on the rim against us, so when we force people to the net, they have a hard time scoring.

“You’d see in other games (Wilkinson) would come around screens and get open shots, so we just switched everything and when you’re on him, get up and force him to put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket.”

As Sydenham rotated in its defence, it would end up that different players would find themselves guarding the Smiths Falls player, possibly making it difficult for him to identify the weaknesses of any one defender.

“We switch everything in the half court,” Withey explained, “and we were comfortable with anybody guarding him, so we didn’t care if we had to switch.”

Kennedy said he could tell Smiths Falls understood what the Eagles were doing.

“They knew we switch every screen, so they worked hard until they got a switch they liked with Devin and they tried to isolate him against our shorter guys,” he said. “That was a really smart decision, but with all that switching, it also hurt them, with respect to time. To get three or four switches in place to find the matchup they wanted (would take) a minute (off the clock).”

That wasn’t a recipe for getting back into a basketball game you were trailing by 12 points for most of the fourth quarter.

Lusk finished the game with 16 points—and a team-best 65 for the tournament—while Withey scored 13. Steve Kennedy scored eight points, six of them in the first quarter.

In Friday morning’s semifinal game, the Eagles scored 20 points in the first quarter and led 34-17 at halftime against Fellowes of Pembroke. Withey scored 13 points for Sydenham in that game, Lusk had 11 and Tobin came off the bench to score 9, the proceeds of three three-pointers.

The OFSAA tournament will be contested March 9-11 in Ottawa.


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