Bas­ket­ball roy­alty

Fa­tima Academy among top-8 teams provin­cially

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cbn­com­pass.ca

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.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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