The win by the St. Mary's Eagles in last night's CWOSSA "AAAA" final completed a trio of firsts for their senior boys' basketball team.
Earlier in the day, they secured the first-ever OFSAA berth in school history with a semifinal win over a resilient Centre Wellington Falcons' team (65-61).
Their championship win later on Monday would give them the first CWOSSA senior boys' title in school history, and, lastly, it also made them the first District 8 school to ever win the "AAAA" senior title.
The title game --- arguably one of the best CWOSSA finals in history --- played out on Monday evening in front of a packed house at JF Ross CVI in Guelph, against the host Royals.
The offensive fireworks started early. On the Eagles' opening possession, Adam Voll slammed home a rim-rattling dunk that gave the Eagles the first basket of the game.
It would be the first of many baskets --- for both teams --- in the opening half.
The play of JF Ross PG Shamlo Saeed was outstanding in the first half; his shooting and finding teammates for open looks would allow the Royals to take a 23-20 edge after the first quarter.
His drive to the basket and a difficult "and one" made things a 26-20 game on the first Ross possession of the second quarter.
The Royals would extend things to double digits a few minutes later, before a St. Mary's three-pointer (by Isaac Lance) and a two-pointer (from Delondo Hibbert) would cut the lead back down to 5 (34-29).
That was short-lived, as the Royals had a six-point possession their very next trip down the floor.
You see, Saeed was fouled (on a very close block/charge call) and went to the line for double-bonus. Before the free-throws were attempted, Eagle coach Jason Hergott was whistled for a technical for arguing the call. Saeed converted all four free-throws, and then found Wil De Groot after the Royals got the ball back out of bounds for a lay-in, making the score 40-29 in favour of Ross.
They would extend to their largest lead, 43-31, when Evan Karl hit a three-pointer and 2:00 to go in the half. Another late three by Jack Cornett would allow Ross to crack the 50 point barrier in a free-wheeling 50-41 first half.
Both teams shot over 50% from the floor in the opening frame, and attempted a combined 29 free-throws.
Saeed had a terrific first-half for Ross, as he finished the opening 16 minutes with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
However, the Royals' scoring touch would desert them for the opening 3:30 of the second half, and the Eagles took advantage, going on a 9-0 run to quickly tie the game up.
After Ross took a 55-50 advantage on a lay-in by Saeed, the Eagles would go on a 9-0 run to take their first lead since the first quarter. It was keyed by back-to-back "and ones" by Alex Thompson and reserve grade 11 guard Chris Cloutier.
Ross was able to regain the lead late by knocking in three three-pointers in just over 1:00 of game clock. Three-balls by Cornett, Saeed, and Cornett again (sandwiched around an SMHS basket) turned a 61-57 deficit into a 66-63 lead before St. Mary's Telloy Simon hit a three-pointer of his own to knot things back up at 66.
Ross' Drew Padovan would hit a jumper with time winding down as the Royals took a 2-point edge (68-66) to the final quarter.
The fourth quarter started slowly, with no scoring in the first 3:00 of the frame, although the big play during that time frame was the fact that Ross' Evan Karl, who played such a big role for them throughout the tournament, fouled out with 6:06 still remaining on the clock.
Trey Larue extended things to a 70-66 game, before Alex Thompson (two pointer) and Isaac Lance (two free-throws) tied things up.
We would stay knotted at 70 through to 2:30 to go, when SMHS' Adam Voll hit a turnaround jumper to give the Eagles the lead. It was short-lived, however, as Saeed went in for a lay-up and was fouled (missing the free-throw), tying the game at 72.
We'd go back-and-forth again after the Centreville connection went to work with Henry Bankazo dropping off a nice dish to Alex Thompson for a basket and foul (2:09 on the clock).
After a free-throw miss, Mike Friesen was fouled right back on the other end and tied things up at 74.
Eventually, after each team had a possession, Henry Bankazo would hit the go-ahead lay-in with under 1:00 to go. It literally hung on the lip of the rim for over a second, while the Eagle faithful erupted after it eventually dropped through.
Thompson would foul out for St. Mary's back the other way, and Saeed would make 1-of-2 from the line to cut the deficit to 1 (76-75) and just over 30 seconds to play.
With Ross trying to play great defense and force a turnover, Lance would find Bankazo wide-open underneath for a lay-up that pushed the Eagle lead to 3, and 19 seconds left.
Telloy Simon forced a steal, and it looked like SMHS would seal this one --- but he turned the ball over and Chris Cloutier was actually called for an Eagle foul during the turnover.
Wil de Groot hit 1-of-2 for Ross (78-76) and, forced to foul, the Royals sent Lance to the line for St. Mary's and only 3.3 left. Lance made 1-of-2, to extend to a 79-76 game, and JF Ross did not get a desperation shot attempt off.
The season is not over, though, for the Royals, as they will be making their third consecutive OFSAA appearance. They do have a few key wins on their resume, including a recent win over Pine Ridge of Pickering, the LOSSA qualifier (JC Richardson and Pickering are in that league).
For St. Mary's, Isaac Lance led the way with a 19-point effort, while Henry Bankazo (15), Alex Thompson (15) and Adam Voll (14) were all in double-figures as well. Telloy Simon (5), Delondo Hibbert (5), Chris Cloutier (5) and Tyler Hergott (1) rounded out the Eagle scoring.
It should be noted that Voll was a force in the paint all night, and finished with at least 6 blocks, while altering several more attempts. Meanwhile, Simon, Hibbert, Cloutier and Hergott all provided very valuable contributions off the bench --- Cloutier in particular with some great hustle plays in the second half.
Saeed just missed a triple-double, as he finished with 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists --- game highs in all three categories. Mike Friesen (14) and Jack Cornett (12 on four three-pointers) were the other double-digit Royal scorers; Evan Karl (6), Wil de Groot (6), Trey Larue (6) and Drew Padovan (2) rounded out the JFR offense.
JFR 23-27-18-08 = 76
SMHS 20-21-25-13 = 79
I. Lance 5-12 FG, 7-9 FT, 4 Reb, 5 Ast - 19 Pts.
H. Bankazo 7-10 FG, 1-5 FT, 1 Reb, 4 Ast - 15 Pts.
A. Thompson 7-13 FG, 1-2 FT, 6 Reb, 1 Ast - 15 Pts.
A. Voll 6-9 FG, 1-4 FT, 6 Reb, 0 Ast - 14 Pts.
Z. Hannah 0-2 FG, 0-0 FT, 1 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
T. Simon 2-4 FG, 0-0 FT, 3 Reb, 0 Ast - 5 Pts.
T. Hergott 0-0 FG, 1-2 FT, 0 Reb, 1 Ast - 1 Pt.
D. Hibbert 2-2 FG, 0-0 FT, 3 Reb, 0 Ast - 5 Pts.
C. Cloutier 1-4 FG, 3-5 FT, 4 Reb, 2 Ast - 5 Pts.
Field Goals: 30-56 (.536). Free-Throws: 14-27 (.519). Three-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (I. Lance 2-7, A. Voll 1-1, D. Hibbert 1-1, T. Simon 1-2, H. Bankazo 0-1, A. Thompson 0-1, Z. Hannah 0-2, C. Cloutier 0-2).
E. Karl 2-6 FG, 1-2 FT, 3 Reb, 1 Ast - 6 Pts.
M. Friesen 4-12 FG, 4-4 FT, 7 Reb, 0 Ast - 14 Pts.
W. de Groot 2-6 FG, 1-2 FT, 3 Reb, 0 Ast - 6 Pts.
J. Cornett 4-11 FG, 0-0 FT, 6 Reb, 1 Ast - 12 Pts.
S. Saeed 10-19 FG, 8-11 FT, 8 Reb, 9 Ast - 30 Pts.
T. Larue 3-3 FG, 0-0 FT, 2 Reb, 0 Ast - 6 Pts.
O. Moynihan 0-3 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
D. Padovan 1-3 FG, 0-0 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast - 2 Pts.
N. Ireland 0-0 FG, 0-0 FT, 0 Reb, 0 Ast - 0 Pts.
Field Goals: 26-63 (.413). Free-Throws: 14-21 (.667). Three-Point Goals: 10-27, .370 (J. Cornett 4-9, S. Saeed 2-2, M. Friesen 2-6, E. Karl 1-3, W. de Groot 1-4, O. Moynihan 0-3).