Gryphons rebound and earn redemption
What is the interest — compounded quarterly, of course — on a one-point loss in high school basketball over one year?
In the case of the Greater Fort Erie Gryphons, it’s 10 points, from a 53-52 loss last year to a 58-49 victory at the Tribune Boys Basketball Tournament.
Niagara’s newest high school, after losing by the thinnest of margins in its inaugural Tribune Tournament last year, defeated the Lakeshore Catholic Gators to finish the 2019 edition of the midseason showcase in the winner’s circle.
Though Austin Ladouceur and Ethan VanNatter were the only returning starters on the Greater Fort Erie team, last year’s loss to the Saint Michael Mustangs in the B final was nonetheless on the mind of the Gryphons.
“Yeah, we talked about and how much we’d like to redeem ourselves,” head coach Dave Adamek said.
Greater Fort Erie hung on to win the battle for Highway 3 basketball bragging rights after taking a 38-20 lead into the final half.
“We definitely were a little nervous in the second half,” Adamek said. “Lakeshore came out flying, and we started missing some, even inside stuff, in the third quarter.
“A couple of bad bounces, next thing you know, it’s a 10-point lead.”
Lakeshore’s comeback bid, spurred by the Gators’ switch to a zone from a man-to-man defence, didn’t throw the Gryphons entirely off their game.
“We got nervous but, no, we were confident the entire time,” Adamek said. “We knew if we just took care of the ball, ran our stuff, the shots would continue going in.
“I’m proud of the guys. They held it together despite a hard push by Lakeshore.”
After rebounding from a qualifying-round loss to Denis Morris with victories over Westlane and Grimsby, the Gryphons took the court against Lakeshore with some unfinished business to complete.
“We could have had it last year, but we couldn’t execute,” Ladouceur said.
He pointed out there’s more to Greater Fort Erie’s offence than the team’s three leading scorers.
“Recently our bench has been stepping up a lot,” the Grade 11 student said. “If one of us isn’t having his best game, we always
have someone on the bench. “Everyone helps out a lot.” Head coach Todd Shoalts, whose Gators lost by six to Greater Fort Erie at a tournament three weeks ago in Port Colborne, was proud of how the team played in the rematch.
“Our problem was we just got too far behind; we couldn’t make it up.”
Lakeshore started narrowing the deficit after switching to a zone defence.
“That worked really, really well,” Shoalts said. “That solved the puzzle, and we just had too much ground to make up.”
While the switch to zone was effective in neutralizing Greater Fort Erie’s big three — Micah Stewart, Ladouceur, VanNatter — the Gators didn’t do enough to help themselves on offence.
“We had some bad turnovers in the second half that killed us,” Shoalts said. “You know what, they gave it a game, that’s what I wanted them to do.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but at the end of the day our guys played hard.”
Shoalts conceded he could have switched defences earlier in the game, though that move could have backfired.
“The thing is I was worried about their three-point shooters,” he said. “I thought if I go to zone too early, their three-point shooters are going to feast on us.”
Scoring for the Gryphons: VanNatter, 15; Stewart, 14; Ladouceur, 13; Zachary Tyrrell, seven; Novontay Brown, four; Avery Steinback-Parker, four; Kiernan Connelly, one.
Scoring for the Gators: Nick Qua, 14; Thomas Cryer, 10; Allan Pambianco, seven; Ben Shoalts, six; Samuel Beifuss, five; Aidan Plante, three; Chase Beauregard, two; Travis Hill, two.
Lakeshore Catholic’s Nick Cryer is pursued by Greater Fort Erie’s Riley Mitchell in consolation championship action Saturday night.