Phoenix knock off Irish to remain undefeated
The Saint Francis Phoenix are putting a huge responsibility on the young shoulders of Andrew Ens.
The 14-year-old, Grade 9 guard has been entrusted to run the offence and the early returns are encouraging.
Ens poured in 19 points while acting as the quarterback on offence to lead the Phoenix past the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 70-55 in Niagara Catholic Athletic Association senior boys basketball play Wednesday at Notre Dame.
“Andrew is really the engine that drives us,” Phoenix head coach Jono Marcheterre said.
Marcheterre said it was evident early on Ens could handle the job.
“He’s a really special kid. When you see him from early practices and workouts, he’s coming in and not backing down to talk to the Grade 12s and tell them where they should be on the floor and stuff. It was clear early that he’s not afraid of anything. He’s got enough confidence — he’s very respectful — but confident and he leads with his work ethic. He works and works.”
Ens, who plays at the club level for Niagara United, doesn’t seem the least bit intimated going up against older and generally bigger opponents.
“Just anything to help our team win,” he said when asked about his role. “It’s been fun. I get to experience a lot and these senior guys have been helping me so much.”
Ens only stands 5-foot-8 or so, but shrugs off his lack of height.
“I can’t compete with height, that’s natural, so I just do what I can do,” he said. “I (have a) good heart and play tough.”
Marcheterre plans to give his rookie guard all the opportunity necessary to develop.
“We’re aware there are going to be some growing pains and hiccups here and there but it’s purely decision making,” he said. “Skill-wise, he can play, but if you don’t let him make the mistakes, he’s not going to grow.
“It’s a long game for him as Grade 9 playing senior, but it’s our getting him ready for the next level and quickly as he can so he has to those options.”
The win improved Saint Francis’ record to 5-0.
“This is the type of game where you learn who you are as a player and who we are as a team,” Marcheterre said. “For our young guys that we have, they may have had that experience earlier in the year in tournaments so there are still some question marks hanging over them in terms of how are they going to react to these situations and how do we regroup if they don’t respond positively.”
Notre Dame coach Mark Gallagher was simply happy to see his charges back playing on their home court.
“This is the first time there has been a game at Dillon Hall in more than two years,” he said. “The most important thing is for the kids. This group of kids have missed so much in terms of the school experience and the athletic experience.”
The Irish fell to 3-1 in their first game back after the lockdown.
“We’ve really had a disjointed season and I think you saw that today in part of the game,” Gallagher said. “We had difficulty at times running sets and had trouble breaking he pressure because we weren’t ready to play a team of this calibre right away.”
Phoenix 70 Fighting Irish 55
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: Notre Dame’s Lucas Ponting with 33 points.
For the St. Francis Phoenix: Quinten Ethier 24; Andrew Enns 19; Allen Kalonji 9; Luca Valvano 8; Jack Ciocca 7; Vlad Brundula 3;
For the Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Ponting 33; Owen Phillips 8; Nathan Audino 5; Chris Ortiz 3; Rylan Lauder 3; Andrew Benko 2; Zion Ferguson 1.
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