Panthers stepped up to the challenge
The McGregor Panthers wanted more than another OFSAA gold medal in the 2001-02 season. They wanted a challenge. Rather than go for a third straight ‘AA’ boys basketball championship, the Panthers opted to jump up to the ‘AAAA’ level against the biggest and best teams in the province.
Head coach Dan Lewis and assistant coach Dave Kent knew the Panthers were good enough to do it, said guard Alan Cattrysse, and so did the players.
“They brought it to our attention,” Cattrysse said, “and we said, ‘Yeah, why not? Let’s do this. Let’s challenge ourselves. We’ve already accomplished everything we could at the ‘AA’ level.’”
The Panthers eventually placed fourth at the OFSAA championship, but they’re remembered as one of the finest basketball teams Chatham has ever seen.
They’ll be inducted into the Chatham Sports Hall of Game on Thursday at the WISH Centre.
“It was such a special group of players,” swingman Kevin Kloostra said. “You don’t realize it at the time. Now you think back and it’s, ‘Yeah, it was a great time.’”
The Panthers began the threeyear stretch by winning OFSAA gold in 2000, then did it again in 2001 in dominating fashion.
They led 41-15 after one quarter in the 2001 gold-medal game and won by 30 points over Kincardine.
With four starters back the following year, they wanted a bigger test.
“Obviously we dominated the ‘AA’ scene,” Kloostra said. “We wanted to go against the best. We’d always go against them in tournaments earlier in the year and have success.”
The Panthers tested themselves every year by entering the most prestigious tournaments in Ontario. They held their own against much bigger schools, so no opponents took No. 4-seeded McGregor lightly when the OFSAA championship rolled around.
“We had a very, very talented team,” Kloostra said. “We didn’t want to just stay in Chatham. We wanted to go over the province and make a name for ourselves. We weren’t afraid of nobody.”
Years before the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat won NBA titles by relying on a Big Three, the Panthers had their own trio of superstars: Kloostra, Cattrysse and Andy Fantuz.
Kloostra would earn an NCAA Division I scholarship to Binghamton University. After one year there and another at Wyoming’s Casper College, he enrolled at the University of Windsor and helped the Lancers win an OUA championship.
Cattrysse played for the Canadian junior baseball team and was a four-year starter on the Michigan State baseball team.
Fantuz starred on the gridiron, winning the Hec Crighton Trophy at Western before playing 11 seasons in the CFL.
The Panthers had depth, too, with Kyle Robbins, Jeremy Derksen, P.J. Hamilton, Mike Bean, Ryan Morrison, Rob Shaw, Scott Currie and Mark Oulds.
“We had some really good role players,” Cattrysse said.
The Panthers finished with a 50-8 record. They scored more than 90 points in 12 games.
Their 25-game winning streak ended with an OFSAA semifinal loss to Eastern Commerce. That was followed by a 64-62 loss to Burlington Nelson in the bronzemedal game.
“It still stings a little to this day,” Kloostra said with a laugh.
The 2001-02 McGregor Panthers placed fourth at the OFSAA ‘AAAA' boys basketball championship. The Panthers were, front row, left: Mike Bean, Ryan Morrison, Kyle Robbins, Rob Shaw and Scott Currie. Back row: coach Dave Kent, P.J. Hamilton, Jeremy Derksen, Mark Oulds, Andy Fantuz, Kevin Kloostra, Alan Cattrysse, head coach Dan Lewis and manager Ron Debusschere.