Phoenix add to legacy
Igor M’Baya was a model of consistency this week for the St. Francis Phoenix.
The Grade 12 guard came into the final game of the 57th Annual Standard High School Basketball Tournament Friday night leading his team with an average of just more than 17 points per game through the first three rounds.
M’Baya turned it up a notch Friday, firing in 20 as the Phoenix defeated the Blessed Trinity Thunder 77-49 in the championship final played before a pro-St. Francis crowd at the St. Catharines Collegiate.
The championship is the third in a row for the Phoenix, sixth in their last eight years, and eighth in the past 12 tournaments.
M’Baya was thrilled to be part of the title.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “Nothing is a given here. Every team came out and gave us a challenge. Blessed Trinity came out and battled hard. It was a tough game.
“I’m proud of every single guy on the team, from the coaches on the junior team to the seniors who were on the team last year. I want to thank every single one of them.”
M’Baya took a quick moment to reflect on his efforts this week, which earned him a spot on the first all-star team and considerable consideration for most valuable player.
“I’m pretty proud of myself the way I was able to come in and step it up,” he said. “I’m loving every single moment out there playing basketball.
“For me, it’s not just about the individual. It’s about the team and I just want to do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s one day distributing the ball to the guys, or if one day I’m going to score.”
Phoenix coach Jono Marcheterre is a big fan of what M’Baya brings to the Phoenix.
“It’s hard to spot a bad game,” Marcheterre said. “He’ll tell you every mistake he made out there because that’s the kind of kid he is but he works hard.
“He’s a constant, calming force. He’s quiet. I couldn’t imagine some of the young guys we have what they would be like without him out there.”
The Phoenix lived up to their top billing sweeping through four wins this week by a combined score of 300-172. St. Francis advanced to the final with victories over Niagara Christian (69-38), Ridley College (80-48) and Centennial (74-37) in the semifinals.
“It’s tough being No.1,” Marcheterre said. “You have to remind the guys every day that everyone is coming for you and gunning for you.
“A lot of it is keeping it simple and concentrating on us and what we have to do to be successful.”
M’Baya said the Phoenix did a good job of not worrying about winning a championship before Friday night.
“Coach always tells us one game at a time. Just because we were the No. 1 seed doesn’t mean anything. We had to go out there and prove it.”
Marcheterre isn’t taking for granted how much of legacy the Phoenix have built at the tournament over the last dozen or so years.
“It’s incredible. It’s my honour to be a small part of it,” he said. “You try to wrap your head about the process. It started with my brother-in-law, Pat Sullivan, and he’ll talk about the years when the team was very raw and new.
“It took a lot of years to build those banners and for me I’m just trying to maintain and protect that legacy. It’s such an honour to be part of it. Every kid at the school knows what this tournament means.”
Thunder coach Gabe Diadamo gave props to his charges for leaving it all on the floor.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” he said. “I don’t think the score reflected the effort we put in. We make a couple of more shots and it’s a different game.”
The Thunder were not the least bit intimated by the powerful and heavily favoured Phoenix.
“My team is good and we’re good enough to play with any team in this league,” Diadamo said. “We believe that. We know there are other good teams but we believe we are just as good as any other team.”
Phoenix 77 Thunder 49
No Limit Performance/Kully’s Player of the Game: St. Francis’ Sam Braithwaite and Filip Gagacev for Blessed Trinity.
For the St. Francis Phoenix: Sam Braithwaite 23; Igor M’Baya 20; Sacade Kasamba 13; Nick Hoggan 9; Quinton Duemo 9; Andres Pelaez 3.
For the Blessed Trinity Thunder: Filip Gagacev 16; Noah Monteforte 14; Jimmy Hillyard 9; Lucas Cino 7; Dasheil Baktawar 3.
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