Hard work pays off for Notre Dame
Fighting Irish top Redcoats in Tribune Tournament championship final
A Tribune Boys Basketball Tournament championship is a solid cornerstone for a high school program undergoing a rebuild.
In addition to looking good on the resume, and in the trophy case, the high-profile accomplishment is positive reinforcement that hard work in practice can return big dividends on the hardwood in games.
That was the case Saturday night at Dillon Hall in Welland, where the host Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Governor Simcoe Redcoats 70-55 for the championship.
“I’m so happy for the kids,” head coach Mark Gallagher said. “One of the things that happen is you try to get kids to work hard, and if you don’t win, it doesn’t seem like they’re making steps forward.
“That’s why I’m happy with this whole process.”
Notre Dame, which lost last year’s final to the Welland Centennial Cougars with a veteran team, put a much different team on the court at the Tribune Tournament this year.
“This is a unique group of kids,” Gallagher said. “Last year’s group was an older group that we’ve worked with a couple of years.
“This is sort of a brand new group, and a lot of the key players are either very young or inexperienced.”
Gallagher said the future looks bright for senior boys hoops at Notre Dame.
“Last year, we were trying to win as an accumulation of everything that we had done together,” he said. “This year it’s more of a starting off point.
“The fact that we could win with this group is something we can hopefully build on from here.”
The nightcap of a championship doubleheader was much closer than the final score. Simcoe was up 48-47 midway into the
last quarter before Notre Dame nailed some three-pointers to stretch out the score.
“I thought we played well today, I thought in particular in the second half I thought we were really good defensively,”
Gallagher said. “They made some shots — they’re a good team, they’re going to make shots — but we forced them to shoot difficult shots.”
For a coach battling the flu all week, a win in regulation one night after a nail-biter in overtime was just what the doctor would have ordered.
“I think I would feel a lot more sick of we lost that one than I do right now, that’s for sure,” Gallagher said with a chuckle. “I’m not sure any of us could have survived overtime again like last night.”
In Saturday’s final against Notre Dame, Simcoe was unable to match the intensity it had the night before when it dethroned reigning champion Centennial.
“I think we just ran out of gas, we were going with a bit of a shorter bench,” Redcoats head coach Shaun Feor said. “I don’t think we exactly played our game today, to be honest with you.”
He said the play was stagnant in an opening half that the Irish took by a 27-24 margin.
“There was a lot of back-andforth, no one really attacking the rim,” he said. “But I have to give credit to Notre Dame, they played a great defence.”
Notre Dame’s David Jones, the tournament most valuable player and a first-team all-star, attributed the win to strong play on defence and a high level of intensity on both sides of the ball.
“The whole team’s energy was just great, and we were able to push through in the fourth (quarter) in a close game.”
Jones, who was briefly sidelined with cramps in his legs in an overtime thriller against E.L. Crossley in the semifinal round Friday, didn’t feel 100 per cent when he took the court for the final.
“My legs were really sore, my legs weren’t doing their best, but for the finals, the adrenalin was just pumping,” he said. “I felt good all game.”
Gallagher praised the play of the Grade 11 guard.
“He’s so tough, he plays so so hard,” the coach said. “He was in foul trouble in the final last year, and he only played half the game.
“He’s been looking forward to this.”
Far from putting added pressure on the shoulders of the Notre Dame players, support from the crowd gave the team an added incentive.
“That made us feel good, that’s what we wanted.”
Shammar Campbell, 22; Andrew Zezella, 16; Jones, 13; Brandon Markowski, nine; Anthony Cimino, seven; and Jesse Raso, three; scored for Notre Dame.
Darren Johnston, 19; Max Grant, 16; Deryck Burke, nine; Andrew Scott, six; Cal Andersen, three, and Mason MacEachern, two; put up points for Simcoe.
“One of the things that happen is you try to get kids to work hard, and if you don’t win, it doesn’t seem like they’re making steps forward. That’s why I’m happy with this whole process.”
Notre Dame senior boys basketball head coach
Bernd.Franke @niagaradailies.com 905-225-1624 | @TribSportsDesk
Governor Simcoe’s Mason MacEachern goes up for a shot against host Notre Dame in Tribune Boys Basketball Tournament championship action.