Coaches had a message for the Ursuline Lancers before the LKSSAA championship game: This is your night.
After two straight losses to the Northern Vikings in the ‘AAA’ senior boys’ basketball final, the Lancers’ coaches were certain the team was ready to make history Saturday.
“They planned this day for three years,” Lancers forward Spencer Denomy said. “They knew all of us were going to be on this team this year. They said they had this day planned for us to win.
“It got me really excited. It got me feeling really good that they put all their effort into this team and this game.”
Their prediction came true when the Lancers completed an unbeaten LKSSAA season with a 71-59 win over the Vikings at Ursuline College Chatham.
The Lancers earned their first LKSSAA title by ending the Vikings’ four-year reign.
“To come together as a team, as a school, and get this win, bring it back to UCC for once, it’s a big accomplishment,” Lancers guard Evan Torres said.
The Lancers had the depth and experience they lacked in previous years against the Vikings.
“This was their year,” Vikings guard Jackson Earle said. “We were short-handed. They have a deep bench and they just were able to get the result.”
Evan McGregor led the Lancers with 16 points and Denomy added 15 to win the John Thrasher Trophy. Cody Boulley scored 13 and Torres had 11.
“If the starter’s not hot, we have guys on the bench who can come off and play great games, like Spencer Denomy just did coming off the bench and winning MVP of the game,” Torres said. “We’re just that deep. That’s what we’ve been doing all year.”
Andrew Cook scored a game-high 23 points for the Vikings, Ethan Jones had 10, and Earle and Chandler Haagsma added nine apiece.
The Lancers led for the final three quarters, but it took awhile for them to pull away.
“Our coach always says basketball is a game of runs,” Denomy said. “We maintained ours and limited theirs.”
The Lancers led by as many as seven in the second quarter, but the Vikings cut the lead to 29-28 by halftime.
In the third quarter, a nine-point lead was trimmed to two before the Lancers finally put the game out of reach. Weiler Dunlop hit a three-pointer from the right corner with one second left for a 51-39 lead.
“We just get burned out in the fourth quarter,” Earle said. “They have the stamina, they have the bodies to throw in, and we don’t.”
The Lancers outscored the Vikings 23-6 off the bench.
The Lancers scored from outside and inside. They hit nine three-pointers to the Vikings’ four and also had enough fresh legs to drive to the basket all night.
Ursuline began its streak of three straight title-game trips in 2018 with three Grade 10 players (Torres, Quinton Emerick and Nakoma Scott) who are still on the team. McGregor, who was in Grade 11 in 2018, is the only other player left from that roster.
“Winning as a team’s important,” Torres said, “but winning with those guys was really important to me because we’ve lost twice and had a couple heartbreaks, so winning the championship just feels really good.”
The Lancers have great chemistry this season, said Denomy.
“We bonded really well together,” he said. “Practices were intense. We always kept the heat up. And our defence was really good this game. That made us go go off.”
Emerick and Dunlop added six points apiece.
Also Saturday, the Vikings beat the Lancers 68-47 in the ‘AAA’ junior boys’ final at Northern.