Fatima Academy among top-8 teams provincially
Everyone remembers the story of David and Goliath.
It tells of a man, David, who slayed a giant, Goliath, using nothing more than a slingshot and the determination to overcome the odds against him.
It’s a story commonly connected to a sports team in some fashion. In Newfoundland basketball, that story would find itself attached to the St. Bride’s Fatima Academy male basketball team.
The Royals are on quite a roll this season. They’ve brought home a number of banners in the early part of the year and most recently got the better of AAAA Tier II contender Clarenville High in the division I final of the Cougar Classic on Jan. 9.
As a result, Fatima finds themselves amongst the top teams in the province. Not bad for a team identified as an A team by School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador
“At the beginning of the year, our coach said the Hall of Fame Cup was his goal for this year,” said Blake Careen, a senior forward gifted with skills facing the basket or with his back turned to it. “We all thought he was living in dreamland.”
Dreamland or not, it’s a reality the team finds itself in as the No. 7 ranked male basketball team in the province. They find themselves amongst the elite of the basketball world in Newfoundland and Labrador.
They are amongst schools with hundreds of athletes to choose from — Fatima has 70 students K-12, 22 of which are in Level III — and feature rosters littered with provincial team players.
“It’s pretty amazing to be ranked with all of the bigger schools,” said assistant coach Chantel Nash. “When you look at that in comparison the other schools on the list, we have 22 to their 500. Our team consists of players from grades 7-12.
“There are 18 boys in grades 7-12, 12 of those 18 are on our team. I think it goes to show that hard work and dedication can pay off. Chris (Mooney, head coach) and I are so proud to be a part of their group.”
“Last year, when I started, I had only seen them practice and had no idea what they could do,” added Mooney. “I will always remember, I was sitting on the stage with a few of the players, watching 2 bigger schools, and I said, ‘ We are better than them.’ That was our first tournament of last year. We won silver that weekend at PWC. Did I think that that point last year that we would be here now? I had my hopes.”
Playing with an edge
Make no bones about it, the Fatima Royals have the skills and the athletes to play any style of basketball they choose or what their opponents choose. They can get up and down the floor and play in the half court.
“Our mindset is to do whatever it takes to win the game,” said Mooney. “The boys know their roles on the court and every single one of them gives 100 per cent.
“They always know where the ball is and are ready to grab it at every opportunity.”
“We hustle,” said Braedan McGrath, the point guard with the lightning first step. “That’s how we get extra possessions and that’s a big part of our success.”
“The kind of game we play is one the type of game that nobody really plays anymore, the rough game,” added Blake.
The Royals routinely switch between a smothering 3-2 zone defense and a grinding man-toman defense depending on the situation they find themselves in. They make teams work for every point they get and aren’t afraid to get a bit physical as the opposition attempts to make their way inside.
“I feel our biggest strength is our defense,” said McGrath. “Our defense wins us games.”
The support is there
One thing is for sure about the Royals and their fans — you might hear them before you see them.
Every game, a group of parents, grandparents, siblings and former players are there to greet them and lend their support — and their voices — to the team.
“I think a huge strength for our team is our fanbase,” said Mooney. “It adds to the game and it helps keep the boys focused and passionate.”
Coming from a small centre, the Royals have chemistry in spades. The players have spent years on the court with each other. They’ve spent countless hours in the practice gym hoisting shots and running their offensive sets.
“Chemistry is a huge part of our success,” said Jody Careen. “All of us have been playing ball together since grades three and four. We know each other. We know our strengths and our weaknesses.”
The fact they are ranked amongst the top male basketball teams in the province isn’t lost on the coaches or the players.
“It means that even though we’re small, we are mighty,” said McGrath. “All the hard work pays off.”
The Fatima Academy Royals pose for a team photo after a recent win at the Cougar Classic held in Clarenville Jan. 8-9. After a solid season so far, the Royals find themselves ranked amongst the top-8 male basketball teams in the province. Members of the team are: front (l-r) — Nathan Penney, Jody Careen, Mitchell Careen and Jonathan Careen; back — coach Chris Mooney, Justin McGrath, Blake Careen, T.J. Careen, Jonathan Morrissey, Braedan McGrath, Colin Lundrigan, Jonah McGrath and assistant coach Chantel Nash.