Navigators bring home OFSAA bronze from North Bay
The Niagara Christian Collegiate Navigators shocked the seeding committee on the way to a bronze medal at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations boys A basketball championship in North Bay.
Seeded 12th in the tournament, the Navigators ended up with a bronze medal and knocked off a bunch of higher-seeded teams in the province along the way, including a 58-57 victory over the second-seeded G.L. Roberts Lakers in the quarter-finals.
It was the first boys OFSAA basketball medal in the school’s history, surpassing a previous best top eight performance.
“It was all about the kids. It was next man up the whole tournament,” Niagara head coach Anthony Haughton said. “For our school to put Fort Erie on the map was an amazing experience.”
Niagara Christian’s tournament included: a 59-47 triumph over the 10th-seeded E.J. Lajeunesse Royals (Damisi Ayodabo 20; Dayo Williams 9; Neil Wangler 9; Ryan Du 7; Winston Xiao 5; Ladi Aganga 4; Anthony Molon 2; Joshua Poon 1); a 46-43 victory over the 13th-seeded Villanova College Knights 46-43 (no scoring available); the aforementioned 58-57 defeat of the G.L. Roberts Lakers 58-57 (Williams 21; Aganga 19; Wangler 5; Adam Chan 4; Xiao 4; Du 3; Ayodabo 2); a 63-46 loss to the third-seeded Saint Paul Wolverines (Xiao 17; Ayodabo 8; Wangler 5; Chan 5; Du 5; Aganga 3; Williams 3) in the semifinals; and, a 65-60 victory over fourth-seeded Notre Dame Eagles 65-60 (Xiao 14; Aganga 13; Ayodabo 8; Poon 7; Wangler 7; Du 6; Jason Lau 3; Williams 3; Chan 3; Molon 2) in the bronze medal game.
Also contributing in the tournament was David Moffat.
Haughton described his team as the Comeback Kings of OFSAA.
“We were down by 11 in the quarter-final game and came back to win at the buzzer against the No. 2 team in the province and in the bronze medal game, we were down 11-0 to the start the game,” he said. “But our kids fought back, play by play and minute by minute.”
It was a complete team effort.
“All of my roster made it into all of the games and that was a pretty amazing thing,” Haughton said. “It was a testament to how truly deep we were this year.
“Our guys knew when we were in foul trouble that it was the next man up.”
The Navigators were in tough against Saint Paul in the semifinals.
“We watched them on film and they were a team with very good pressure and excellent transition,” Haughton said. “Our half-court defence was exceptional and they only scored eight points on us in the half court. But on any missed shot or even a made basket, they were up the court faster than any team I had ever seen.”
After a slow start, Niagara Christian was able to rally and win the bronze medal game.
“We just weathered the storm thanks to our senior leadership,” he said. “Williams hit a big shot to start us off, Neil Wangler played exceptional defence and then we got in a little bit of foul trouble but so did they.
“The difference was our guys were used to playing in close games and throughout the tournament, I don’t think they had played as many of their players.”
That proved to be a big advantage for the Navs.
“I just felt that, although they had more players on their roster, more of our guys had big game experience,” Haughton said. “We just hung around, hung around and pulled away at the end.”
Niagara Christian will have six players back next year to defend its Zone 3 and Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association championships.
“We have a lot to look forward to for next season but there is a lot of work to be done as well,” Haughton said. “We are going to miss our senior leadership.”