Cava­liers push their way to early sea­son ti­tle

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

There’s a scene in 2005’s “Coach Carter” where Sa­muel L. Jack­son’s tit­u­lar char­ac­ter tells his bas­ket­ball team ex­actly what he ex­pects of them.

It’s prior to the start of the sea­son and the athletes are wor­ried about how they’re their go­ing to play on of­fense. Hud­dled around their coach, Jack­son’s Ken Carter tells them sim­ply he wants them to run.

Laval Cav­a­lier’s head coach Mark Nash might not be Carter and the team isn’t the Rich­mond Oil­ers, but there are sim­i­lar­i­ties to draw be­tween the two.

The Cava­liers want to run the ball and put a con­sis­tent amount of pres­sure on teams. That means look­ing for leak outs af­ter re­bounds or when the other team scores a bas­ket.

It also means hound­ing the ball on de­fense in search of turnovers and then push­ing the ball up the floor.

Fea­tur­ing a team of athletes with large gas tanks, the Cava­liers keep the pedal to the floor for 60 min­utes. Of­ten, op­po­nents get pulled into a track meet and get stuck play­ing at a pace they’re not com­fort­able with.

In the early go­ings of the sea­son, the strat­egy has paid div­i­dends for Laval. Re­cently the team went un­de­feated en route to a cham­pi­onship win at the St. Cather­ine’s In­vi­ta­tional tour­na­ment held Nov. 25-26 in Mount Carmel.

The Cava­liers downed the host Ea­gles 79-59 to bring home the ti­tle. Up five at half, Laval con­tin­ued to wear down St. Cather­ine’s with their high oc­tane ap­proach and even­tu­ally pulled away.

“We’re all pretty ath­letic,” se­nior Joel Nash said of his club. “We’re not the most skilled team, but we just work as hard as we can.”

Laval were rolling from the open­ing tip of the tour­na­ment. Us­ing their run-or-die game plan, the Cava­liers handed the host St. Cather­ine’s a 68-57 loss be­fore thump­ing As­cen­sion Col­le­giate 64-48 in their sec­ond game.

That set up a play­off matchup with the Bal­ti­more Bron­cos. In that game, Laval again pushed the pace and downed their op­po­nents 86-57.

The Cava­liers led the tour­na­ment in scor­ing with 297 to­tal points, or 74 points a game. They also had a top-notch de­fense that al­lowed just 223 points to­tal.

De­fense is king

The Cava­liers are a team with a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing in the game of bas­ket­ball. They have height, they can drib­ble and they can shoot it a lit­tle, but per­haps the big­gest part of their game be­sides push­ing the ball is their in­ten­sity on de­fense.

They tend to come at their op­po­nents in waves. It’s a pack men­tal­ity that when one of them gets beat, the rest are there to force turnovers and gen­er­ally make things un­com­fort­able for their op­po­nent.

Us­ing a di­a­mond-and-one full court press, they force their op­po­nents into speed­ing the game up and pulls them into a track meet.

“Ev­ery­one works re­ally well to­gether,” said guard Jor­dan Pomeroy. “De­fense is one of our pri­or­i­ties for sure.”

Fa­mil­iar­ity

While the Cava­liers only re­turned a hand­ful of play­ers from last year’s squad, there is still plenty of chem­istry and fa­mil­iar­ity amongst the play­ers.

This group of athletes all plays the same sports and spend the dif­fer­ent sea­sons chas­ing around a soc­cer ball, car­ry­ing a bat or shoot­ing a puck when they’re not in the gym.

Even with that built-in sport- ing con­nec­tion, it was the first time a cou­ple of play­ers had picked up a bas­ket­ball since their Grade 10 year when they rep­re­sented the Avalon re­gion at the 2014 New­found­land and Labrador Win­ter Games and made it to the semi­fi­nals in the east­ern Grade 10 B provin­cial tour­na­ment.

It took a cou­ple of games, but by the time the cham­pi­onship game rolled around it was like old times.

“The first game we were rusty,” said Nash. “As the tour­na­ment went along, our chem­istry came back.”

Get­ting a tour­na­ment win early can do won­ders for a team. Prac­tic­ing gets a bit eas­ier and run­ning sui­cides doesn’t feel so bad.

“It’s a con­fi­dence booster for sure,” said Nash.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Laval Cava­liers brought home the cham­pi­onship in their first tour­na­ment of the sea­son af­ter a 79-59 vic­tory over the host St. Cather­ine’s in Mount Carmel Nov. 26. Mem­bers of the team are: front (l-r) — Sam Lun­dri­gan, Dou­glas Cheese­man, Joseph O’Leary and T.J. Tra­verse; back — Wil­liam Neville, Chris DaSilva, Jor­dan Pomeroy, Cody Power, Liam Shea and coach Mark Nash. Miss­ing from photo are Michael Leonard-Power and Nathan Hynes.

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