Flyers stun Phoenix
The Eden Flyers are heading to their first Standard championship game in school history.
Led by 26 points from defensive stalwart Caleb Stewart, Eden stunned the Saint Francis Phoenix 79-45 in the championship semifinals of the 59th Annual Standard Kully’s Boys High School Basketball Tournament Thursday at Ridley College.
“Right now we are making history,” Stewart said. “This is our first finals appearance and it means everything. We had a few years off because of COVID and everyone has been working so hard through those years. We haven’t always been together but we are happy to be here.”
Eden was confident going into the game against Saint Francis.
“Our guys have been working really hard in practice. We have a big bench and they continue to make all of our starters better,” the 6-foot-6 forward said. “We came in with the attitude that we deserved to win so we gave it our everything and we made it happen.”
The Grade 12 student set the tone for the Flyers scoring 14 points in the first half, including nine in the second quarter.
“My game is defence. I work hard on defence and if the offence happens, it happens. If I am feeling it, I shoot, but all I want is for our team to succeed. If my role is to score one night I will do it, but defence is my thing.”
Eden coach Jonathon Thorpe was thrilled with the win.
‘For whatever reason, we don’t always necessarily get the respect we deserve as an Eden basketball program,” he said. “But the committee has a tough job ranking with the season just barely started so it’s just a guess. We have three what I would call elite players in Caleb and Riley Stewart and Chad (Thorpe). Chad didn’t score that much tonight but he did so many things we needed him to do and Caleb and Riley were pretty much unstoppable tonight around the hoop and even on the perimeter. It does feel good but we have work to do. We will enjoy this win tonight but there is a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
Jonathon Thorpe agreed Caleb Stewart set the tone for his club in the first half.
“Caleb was fantastic. He is our anchor defensively and I use him in a few different ways defensively and he always rises to the occasion,” he said. “Offensively, we run a couple of schemes where I require him to use his brains quite a bit. In the second half, we opened up with about four wide-open layups under the hoop. Although none of them were Caleb’s, it was because of the work that he was doing that the other guys were wide open.”
Like every basketball coach, Thorpe is delighted when a defensive star gets to show his offensive side of the game.
“He is really beginning to polish his offensive game,” he said. “Last year as an 11, he was kind of strictly a defensive anchor but right away in tryouts this year it was very obvious he was taking his offensive game to another level.”
Stewart has done that at Eden and with his Supreme Hoops Canada travel team in Hamilton.
“I am working hard with my coaches to find the school that best fits me and my brother. Riley and I are both hoping to play post secondary,” he said. “It is our last year and we are putting all the work in with after school practices and at night. It’s everything we can do to get better.”
Stewart knows what it will take for his team to be successful in the final.
“We have to keep up our intensity. Defence is our team’s strategy and if we play good defence, our offence will happen.”
The Flyers jumped out to an early 11-3 lead before the Phoenix cut the margin to 17-16 at the end of the first quarter. Eden extended its lead to 37-26 at the half and then blew the game open in the third quarter by outscoring Saint Francis 26-7.
The Phoenix were hoping to extend their record streak of Standard tournament titles to five but ran into a buzzsaw against Eden.
“They were definitely ready for us and they played an excellent game,” Saint Francis head coach Jon Marcheterre said. “They executed what they wanted to and we didn’t have the answers we need to have. It was unfortunate for us.”
Saint Francis went into the Standard tourney on a roll.
“We played three tournaments leading up to it and we won all three,” he said. “It just wasn’t clicking for us tonight and it didn’t work out but full credit goes to Eden and coach Thorpe. They played an excellent game and I wish them nothing but the best going forward.”
Flyers 79 Phoenix 45
Kully’s/Regatta Sports Players of the Game: Eden’s Caleb Stewart and Saint Francis’ Anthony Heyes.
For the Eden Flyers: Caleb Stewart 26; Riley Stewart 21; Chad Thorpe 9; Luke Johnson 8; Dylan Durlov 5; Graham Midgley 5; Edson Sanecki 3; Luke Midgley 2
For the Saint Francis Phoenix: Heyes 18; Andrew End 9; Jack Ciocca 5; Kevin Ducuara 3; Josh Smith 2; Austin Hinds 2; Elijah Quissua 1.
Up next: Eden advances to the championship final Friday at 7:45 p.m. at St. Catharines Collegiate.