Niagara’s high school boys all-stars battle Thursday
Riley Bleich will be playing in Thursday’s high school basketball all-star games at Governor Simcoe.
After a two-year absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Niagara Region Senior Boys All-Star Basketball Games return to Governor Simcoe Thursday night at 6:30 and 8 p.m.
“It is most important to have these games for the kids,” committee member Shaun Feor said. “They only had a partial season and for the parents, it is an opportunity to get in the gym and see their kids, the senior players, play for the last time before they head off to college or university.
“It is also an opportunity for us to get back to normal and help our community. It is also building and keeping a relationship between high school sports and Niagara College.”
The top 40 game will be played first followed by the top 20 game.
The event is a collaborative effort by a number of groups. Niagara College is hosting the event and all proceeds will go to the Hope Centre in Welland. The Niagara District Basketball Referees Association is officiating the games for free and the all-star shirts are being provided by St. Catharines CYO basketball.
Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for students.
Playing for the first time will be Saint Francis’ Allen Kalonji, picked for the Team North Top 20 roster, and E.L. Crossley’s Riley Bleich, chosen to the Team South Top 20 squad.
“I am pretty excited to play in it because I have always seen other Saint Francis players play in it and do big things,” said Kalonji, a 19-year-old St. Catharines resident. “It is good for everyone because last year was tough because of COVID. It was hard seeing both OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) and SOSSA (Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association) cancelled. Everyone is glad that we are having these games.”
The 12B student can’t wait for the game.
“I am going to try and have fun because there are a lot of players on the teams that I am friends with. I am going to go out there and show what I can do.”
Bleich, an 18-year-old Fonthill resident, is eagerly anticipating the game.
“I am looking forward to it, getting to go out and play with a different group of kids,” the 12B student said. “It is my last year to do it.”
He is not planning to change his style for the game.
“I am just going to block everything else out and play. It is just a normal game.”
Both Kalonji and Bleich are part of a Pelham Panthers under-19 team that is hoping to do some serious damage this spring in the Ontario Basketball Association playdowns.
“We have a pretty good squad,” Kalonji said. “I played with these coaches before and they don’t take any shortcuts. They make us work as hard as possible. We are a big team so it’s crash, get a rebound and try to score on the fast break every time.”
Bleich, who will be playing for the Niagara College team this fall, is excited about the Panthers’ potential.
“We are looking good. It has been fun playing with the guys, staying in shape and working hard until college starts.”
Named to the Team North Top 20 team were: Governor Simcoe’s Malcolm Perrin and Matteo Martin; Sir Winston Churchill’s Alex Ruiz, Brady Pupek and Mazen Yagubi; Eden’s Chad Thorpe; and, Saint Francis’ Quinten Ethier, Andrew Enns and Kalonji. Chosen for the squad but unable to play were Eden’s Riley Stewart and Josiah deVries. Coaching Team North squads are Jon Marcheterre of Saint Francis, Martin Cook of Sir Winston Churchill and John Ingribelli from Governor Simcoe.
Named to the Team South Top 20 squad were: E.L. Crossley’s Bleich, Noah Minor and Luke Klassen; Notre Dame’s Lucas Ponting and Owen Philips; Saint Paul’s Joey Primerano Williams; A.N. Myer’s Curin Smith; and, Centennial’s Cam Larmand. Chosen but unable to participate were Centennial’s Carter Williams and A.N. Myer’s Manny Maynard. Coaching Team South’s teams are Brian Bleich from E.L. Crossley, Paul Grummett from A.N. Myer and Mark Gallagher from Notre Dame.
Selected to the Team North Top 40 roster were: Dylan Maltby, Joshua Kaufman and Mike Ukiomogbe from Denis Morris; Colton Joyce from Collegiate; Kegan Harrison from Laura Secord; Zack Stolzenberg from DSBN Academy; Holy Cross’s Dwayne Osbourne and Lucas Muon; and, Michael Akinpetide from Blessed Trinity. Selected but unable to participate were Kajus Zilinskas from Collegiate and K.J. Robinson from Eden.
Selected to the Team South Top 40 roster were: Malachi Scott and Olise Omife from Great Lakes Christian; Nathan Sanchez from Saint Paul; Tyson Veldhuizen from Heritage Christian; Dylan Klassen from Westlane; Max Annunziata from Lakeshore Catholic; Adnan Awan from Thorold; and, Devon Devost from Saint Michael. Picked for the team but unable to take part were St Jean de Brebeuf’s Joel Kibulu and Adian Adutdillo and Dante DeBenedetti from Saint Paul.
Each head coach was asked to submit three nominations from their own school team and the committee then selected the rosters based on a player’s individual success as well as their team’s success.
“It was important to the committee that all schools from Zones 2, 3 and 4 had the opportunity to nominate players and have representation in the games,” Feor said.
Members of the selection committee were Feor, Brian Bleich, Niagara College’s men’s head coach Phil Mosley, Holy Cross head coach Randy Conlon and Gallagher.
“It was tough to pick the teams,” Feor said. “Everyone has their guy and we didn’t have the opportunity to see a Standard tournament or a Tribune tournament. The BPSN tournament was good for picking the top guys in Niagara but a lot of the smaller schools didn’t play.”