Phoenix makes mark with unselfish play
The St. Francis Phoenix defeated the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish 90-58 Tuesday in NCAA senior boys basketball action. Photos by TESS PUCHALSKI.
No one handed a starter’s role to Mark Mesiha on the St. Francis Phoenix senior boys basketball team.
“He has worked hard for four years and every year it has been a matter of him fighting for minutes,” Phoenix head coach Jon Marcheterre said. “This year, it really came together for him and he has taken hold of a starting spot and he’s not letting it go.
“Everything he gets is through hard work and we reward that.”
The 17-year had some starts on the junior team but this season, he has logged starter’s minutes on the senior team.
“It wasn’t easy but I just kept going,” the 6-foot-2 forward said Tuesday, after scoring 10 points in a 90-58 victory over the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Grade 12 student never got discouraged in his quest for more playing time.
“It is always team first and if the coach wants to not play me as many minutes, that is fine,” he said. “You have to keep working and as long as we get the win, that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.”
When he finally got his first start it was no big deal.
“It was nothing new,” he said. “Even if you start the game, all that matters is the end.”
Marcheterre can’t say enough good things about Mesiha, who boasts a 95 per cent average.
“He is a tremendously hard worker and is an excellent student in the classroom. He is one of the mathletes and is an intelligent young man.
“Underlying everything, he is a big boy and he is a load under the rim.”
Marcheterre loves that Mesiha doesn’t demand the ball but has a good idea what he wants to do with the ball when it is in his hands.
“He can score but he is there first and foremost to play defence, rebound and get the ball in other guy’s hands,” he said.
Mesiha is a prototypical ‘glue guy’ on the Phoenix team.
“He does yeoman’s work and he does the jobs the other guys might not be as eager to do but they all appreciate what he is doing for them; fighting for loose balls and rebounds and typically we put him on the other team’s best guy because he is a lot faster than people give him credit for,” Marcheterre said. “He will chip with points but that is not his priority. He knows what he does doesn’t always appear on the scoresheet such as locking down their top guy.”
Mesiha is comfortable in that role.
“My first priority is defence,” he said. “I will guard the best guy on the team and I will try and shut him down and the other thing is rebounding.
“I find rebounds are really important in games so I try and box out, get defensive rebounds and give my team second chances on offence.”
Rebounding certainly played a role in Tuesday’s game which saw the Fighting Irish trailing only 38-33 at the half before the Phoenix took command and outscored Notre Dame 52-25 in the second half.
“They made a lot of the right plays down the stretch, they made a lot of shots in their own gym and it sort of got away from us a little bit,” Irish head coach Mark Gallagher said. “And they killed us on the boards, both offensively and defensively.
“They got a bunch of second-chance shots and we were one shot and done.”
Gallagher is confident his veteran team will improve as the season wears on.
“We are still getting things together a little bit but we will get better,” he said.
Phoenix 90 Fighting Irish 58
BPSN Star of the Game: St. Francis’ Sam Brathwaite with 24 points.
For the St. Francis Phoenix: Brathwaite 24; Tyrell MacLennan 23; Juan Guerrero and Mark Mesiha 10; James Hughes 9; Jack Riddell 8; Luc Fortin 3; Igor M’Baya 2.
For the Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Jonah Gruarin 13; David Jones and Brandon Moore 12; Brandon Graziani 10; Shamar Campbell 4; Jaeden Petti 3; Rovenston Jean-Baptiste 2.