The Niagara Rangers U19 men’s basketball team faced some stiff competition at a weekend tournament in Barrie, but fought their way through it all to bring home the championship.
The Rangers, coached by Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Jonathon Thorpe, relied on “defence by committee” to beat Collingwood 81-70 in overtime in the final.
The road to the championship wasn’t easy.
On Saturday, Niagara lost 63-59 to Guelph, a team they had already beaten twice this season.
“It is always difficult to beat a team three times that you are evenly matched with,” Thorpe said.
Top scorers in game 1 were point guard Chad Thorpe with 20 and Kai Schatz with nine.
In game 2 on Saturday against host Barrie, “the guys came out ready to get a win” after being disappointed in their morning performance, Thorpe said.
“We were a very different looking team and we controlled the play from beginning to end,” winning 73-55.
Chad Thorpe again contributed 20 points and Schatz added 15.
On Sunday morning, the Rangers played Collingwood, which was undefeated to that point in the tournament.
“We played well but they had two players that had huge games that we just couldn’t stop,” the coach said.
That led to an 82-72 defeat, with Thorpe again leading the team, scoring 21 points, while Josh Smith had 10.
The loss meant Niagara had to await the outcome of the next game and hope the right team won so that there was a three-way tie for second “but also that they didn’t win by too much so that we had a better plus-minus.”
In the end the Rangers finished pool play in second and earned a rematch with Collingwood in the gold medal game.
“We adjusted our defences significantly and their star player, who had scored 35 against us in the morning, was held to just seven points thanks to a team effort, but also some great individual defence from Carter Stoutenberg, Graham Midgley, Cole Woodruff and Dylan Durlov, who all took turns on him,” coach Thorpe said.
Collingwood in turn adjusted its defence to try to slow down Niagara’s top shooter, Chad Thorpe.
Several other players, in particular Luke Midgley and Ben Johnson, stepped up and contributed significant offensive numbers, their coach said. Thorpe had 17 points, while Midgley and Johnson added 16 and 14 respectively.
After being down as many as 20 points in the first half, Niagara tied the gold medal game with 10 seconds left.
“In overtime, we dominated the play with a couple of huge buckets from Kai Schatz to seal the deal and win 81-70,” the coach said.
Both Barrie and Collingwood are B division teams in Ontario Basketball League play. Niagara had been in D division but after going 6-0 to start the season has now been moved up to the C division.
The Rangers resume league play with two games this weekend against new C division opponents.