Cavaliers push their way to early season title
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.”
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.
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.