The Brockville Blazer U16 Boys Basketball team travelled to Vaughan, Ontario to participate in the division one of the Hoopdome Classic. Their draw featured 6 of the provinces top 16 teams.
In their first pool game on Friday night, the Blazers battled the Ottawa Next Level team 1. They are currently ranked 3rd in Ontario and have defeated the Blazers twice already this season. The Blazers found themselves down 23-10 with 2 seconds left in the first quarter when point guard Jackson Bayles banked in a 35 foot jump shot. This shot seemed to ignite the Blazers who closed the margin to 2 (48-46) at half. The Blazers continued their ascent in the third quarter finishing with a 62-58 edge. The boys refused to allow the heavily favoured Next Level squad any opportunities for a comeback as they answered every run made at them. In the end, the Blazers knocked off their Kanata based rivals 71-68 surprising everyone in the tournament including themselves.
The Blazer boys played their second game early Saturday morning against the province’s 16th ranked team the Caledon Cougars. The Blazers now found themselves in the unfamiliar territory of being the favourite in a match. This confidence, coupled with the hangover of their upset victory the night before may have accounted for the boys sluggish start to the game. In fact, the Cougars had control of the game and lead by 13 with a little less than 7 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. The Blazers regrouped during a fiery timeout and came out determined to prove that they were the team to beat in their pool. The boys kicked their game into another gear attacking the rim with purpose and pressing on every made basket. Within minutes the Blazers had overcome the deficit and eventually took the lead with less than a minute remaining. The Cougars players and coach flummoxed from the blown lead tried desperately to regain their composure by fouling and putting the Blazers on the line, but the boys calmly nailed their shots and finished with what at one time seemed an unlikely 50-48 victory. This win gave the Blazers a bye into Sunday mornings semi-final.
The boys returned to game action on Sunday morning against the North Toronto Huskies – a team entered in the Canadian Basketball League instead of the Ontario Basketball Association like most of the other teams in this tournament. They entered this match having defeated the provinces 4th ranked York Silver Knights in pool action and were heavily favoured as the Hoopdome is their home practice facility. The scouting report on the Huskies was that they are a run and gun team that capitalizes on their superior athleticism by forcing turnovers. With that bit of information in tow the Blazers focused on securing the ball and slowing down the tempo. The strategy worked. In what turned out to be the best total team effort of the season, the Blazers shocked the Huskies and sported leads by as much as 13 in the third quarter. Despite a furious run in the final minutes, the Blazers managed to maintain their composure spurred on by a gutsy charge taken by forward Jared Payette. Shooting guard Brayden Desjardins hit two clutch free throws with less than 20 seconds remaining to clinch the win (66-62) and move the team to the gold medal final.
In the final, the Blazers were challenged with the task of playing the OYBA Capitals (an Ottawa area all-star team who had beat every team they had faced by 30 points in the tournament up to that point). Unfortunately, the Blazers were no different and lost in a blowout.
The silver medal was very much a surprise to the Blazer team, but even more so for the clubs who they overcame to earn a spot in the division one championship. Many of these clubs, coaches and players had never heard of Brockville before. They certainly have an idea of who the Blazers are now – “giant slayers”.