Saint Francis’ chairman of the boards
A look at the game sheet rarely holds a clue to how important Jakub Labanowicz is to the fortunes of the Saint Francis Phoenix senior boys basketball team.
The Grade 11 player managed only one point Friday at Notre Dame as the Phoenix defeated the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals 48-44 to advance to the semifinals of the Ontario Catholic Classic Basketball Tournament but he contributed in so many other ways. He finished with two assists, two steals and a whopping 12 rebounds, including five in the final quarter with the game in the balance. He also added a key block with 1:24 left in the game.
“His knack for rebounding is absolutely incredible,” Phoenix head coach Jon Marcheterre said. “I haven’t had a guy here who is so committed to being a rebounder.”
At one point during this season, Labanowicz was up to 175 rebounds and the next closest player on the team had 75. He has recorded a personal-best 18 in a game this season.
“He is in Grade 11 and he has really only played a handful of high school games. What we try to do is establish roles where our guys will be successful and in the meantime, in his case, we work on refining his offensive game,” Marcheterree said. “He has embraced it and is contributing something that helps his team a ton. He has made it his identity out there.”
He believes Labanowicz’s rebounding prowess is a combination of a number of factors.
“He is really athletic and he can jump. There’s some technique to rebounding, knowing your angles and the shooters, but a lot of it is just heart. And he has an instinct for where the ball is coming off.”
The 16-year-old, who doesn’t play travel ball, knows exactly what is required of him.
“My role is basically get as many rebounds as I can, bring as much pressure as I can on defence, just hype up the team as much as I can and bring the energy,” the 6-foot-1 forward said.
He is content in his role and isn’t concerned about scoring.
“I leave that to (Anthony) Heyes. Andrew (Ens) and Jack (Ciocca). They do that for our team and I am just there to help them out and grab boards.”
He didn’t want to say how he is so successful on the glass.
“That is a secret. I just try look to where the ball is going and get in that spot in front of everyone and jump up and grab the ball.”
It is different role compared with what he did on the Saint Francis junior squad last year.
“Last year was way different. I was more of a points guy, getting points for the team here and there and this year I have really dropped into that rebounding, power forward role.”
It has been a big step up.
“It has been a lot harder and we have been in a lot tougher tournaments. The Western tournament and other tournaments have brought us a little bit of trouble but we always find a way to come out on top.”
Labanowicz is enjoying his first Catholic Classic.
“There’s some good teams here but I believe we can do pretty good in it.”
The Cardinals played the Phoenix tough all game and led 15-10 after one quarter and 24-18 at the half before the Phoenix grabbed a 38-37 advantage heading into the final quarter. The final eight minutes was a defensive slugfest with the Phoenix outscoring the Cardinals 10-7 to record the win.
“Part of it is that we play very similar system-wise. Defensively, we run identical stuff,” Marcheterre said. “It was really fun to go up against a team that intense and one that is doing a lot of the same stuff that we are trying to do. It was a heckuva battle.”
Saint Francis has advanced to the semifinals for the second straight time in the Classic and is one win away from becoming the second Phoenix team to make the tournament finals. Abu Kigab and the Phoenix lost to St. Michael’s College in 2015.
“It means a lot to us and it is a tournament that we have never won. I am not trying to get ahead of ourselves,” Marcheterre said. “There’s a lot of big names that have come through here and the animal is that it is regardless of school size. They are just trying to get the best Catholic schools in the province together.”
PHOENIX 48 CARDINALS 44
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: Saint Francis’ Jakub Labanowicz with one point, two rebounds, two steals and 12 rebounds, including five in the final quarter.
For the Saint Francis Phoenix: Anthony Heyes 21; Andrews Ens 20; Josh Smith 6; Labanowicz 1.
For the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals (Stoney Creek): Alex DiFrancesco 16; Marcus Palermo 9; Nick Garcia 8.
Up next: Saint Francis advances to the semifinals against Notre Dame Brampton Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Denis Morris.
PHOENIX 72 LIONS 54
Heyes poured in 35 points as the Saint Francis Phoenix advanced to the Classic quarter-finals with a 72-54 win over the Assumption College Lions from Brantford.
Also scoring for the Phoenix were Ens (12), Labanowicz (10), Ciocca (5), Matt Futino (3), Josh Smith (3), Elijah Quissua (2) and Tommy Goodwin (2).
Top scorers for Assumption were Luke McKinnon (21), Michael Oddi (13) and Jordan Hogg (5).