Glendale High School's senior boys basketball team went to the OFSAA AA tournament in Sault Ste. Marie, March 6-8, hoping for Top 5 seeding, and in the hunt for a medal.
The Tillsonburg school won its first two games, reaching the quarter-finals, but bowed out with a loss to Ashbury College from Ottawa.
Seeded No. 8, Glendale started its OFSAA tournament against No. 14 seed Adam Scott (COSSA), winning 54-58.
"We did a little bit of research, we knew they'd be a good team," said Glendale coach Mike Demaree.
The Peterborough school had just dropped to AA after two consecutive trips to the OFSAA AAA tournament.
"I think they had 10 returning seniors - we knew they'd be a pretty good team, regardless of whatever their seed was."
Steve Gilvesy led the Gemini with 16 points in a very physical game.
"They were probably one of the better rebounding teams that we played this year," said Demaree. "They really took it to us in the first quarter or so until we adjusted to it," he said, noting the Gemini trailed 13-10 and 18-15 after the first two quarters.
"OFSAA's a tournament full of good teams. I wasn't surprised. Even though they were a No. 14 team, everything I read about them told me they would be a tough game for us. They had a couple guys who were good shooters, they ran a very disciplined type of offence, set a lot of screens, created a lot of situations where we had to switch and recover on defence. They sort of exposed any weaknesses that you would have defensively, really well."
The Gemini might have had some 'nerves' in the first half as well, he admitted.
"When you're going into a tournament like this, it's normal to be a little nervous. I think the second quarter was 5-5... we weren't shooting the ball particularly well. Part of that was us, part of that was the fact that they were a very good defensive team."
Glendale also lost point guard Trent Sinden in the first quarter to injury.
"He sprained his toe... we were afraid it was broken, he was in quite a bit of pain actually," said Demaree. "It ended up being something like 'turf toe'. He left in the first and didn't play the rest of the game. That affected us the rest of the game... he is invaluable when it comes to defence and getting extra possessions. He's one of our best rebounders. That was something we had to overcome the rest of that game.
"The guys played well - we would have the lead and they would draw close, and whenever they seemed to tie us we would pull ahead. We just managed to make a few plays at the end to push it up to the 6-7 point lead.
"It was good to get the first one out of the way. It was not pretty for most of it, but it was good to get it out of the way."
In Round 2, LaSalle also jumped to an early 16-11 lead against Glendale, but the Gemini bounced back with a 17-8 second quarter.
"Our defence wasn't bad, it's just that offensively were a little tentative. We weren't really executing very well in that first quarter. In the second quarter, that all changed. Once we got going, I think we ended the half with a 28-24 lead. The third and fourth quarters, I thought we played extremely well. We were moving well, everybody was contributing. We were getting points from a lot of different people. It seemed to get back to normal in that game."
Jack Demaree led the Gemini with 30 points.
Kennedy (Windsor), seeded No. 3, edged Adam Scott 52-48 in the next round, indicating the Peterborough school perhaps deserved a higher seeding.
"The (Adam Scott) coach said they had a six-point lead late... they were in really good shape," said Demaree. "Kennedy just seemed to pull it out. They (Adam Scott) were a good team, they just sort of got put into an unfortunate position. And I know we were in the same boat."
As the No. 8 seed, after winning their first two games the Gemini ran squarely into the path of tournament juggernaut and undisputed No. 1 seed, Ashbury College. Not a kind bracket, from Glendale's perspective.
"I think we should have been (seeded) a little higher," said Demaree, who had that sentiment confirmed by several coaches, including Ashbury's.
"It (seeding) is a tough thing to do. I'm sure there were lots of teams that felt like they were undervalued. I'm sure Adam Scott did... there's no way they were a No. 14 seed. They were in the top half, for sure. I'm not complaining, we are where we are. Going into it I had hoped we'd be a little higher."
Ashbury dominated the first quarter, 18-6, en route to a 61-29 win last Tuesday evening. Keiran Rangel and Jack Demaree led the Gemini with nine points each.
The end result of their No. 8 seeding, said coach Mike Demaree, was hitting Ashbury in the quarter-finals, one game too early. Frontenac, the No. 4 seed, lost its Wednesday morning semifinal to Ashbury 57-24 - but went on to compete for bronze, eventually losing 54-44 to Kennedy. The Gemini did not get a chance to play for a medal.
"We felt like if we had got a different seed, we very well could have been playing for a medal - silver or bronze. There wasn't any team there I felt like we couldn't compete with... other than Ashbury. Even Thornlea (No. 2), they showed well in the final, but they still ended up losing by 14-15 in the final. Thornlea actually had a half-time lead...
"Both Frontenac, the No. 4, and Kennedy, the No. 3... I would have liked our chances against them. I felt like we would have been in the game at the end and had a chance to win. But, seeding, it's a hard thing to do."
Ashbury, however, was playing on another level.
"They played in the morning before our first game, so I went early to watch them," said Demaree. "I thought, 'they're good.' You can't turn the ball over because they turn it into points at the other end - they're really good in transition. They had good size... one guy who was probably 6'8"-6'9", a good solid kid. Another good guy, and two guards who were out of this world. The one is 17, he's got one more year in high school and he'll be going to Prep School in the States. He's already got 10-15 offers from college programs. He's phenomenal. They have Junior National Team members on that team... more than one."
Demaree came away thinking 'if we do this,' and 'if we do that...' But it didn't turn out that way.
"Once you get on the court against them, those two guards did what they wanted at will, and I'd never seen that happen to us before. I kept saying, 'guys move your feet, move your feet.' It wasn't that they weren't trying, it was just those two guys were so good. It was impressive to see. Our guys worked their butts off, but it's tough when you've got two guys like that who can break down the defence, and then big guys they can flip the ball over to..."
Ashbury's only loss at the high school level this year came against the AAA champ St. Mike's from Toronto, Demaree noted.
"That tells you right there how good they were. They (Ashbury) probably would have medalled at AAA.
"A lot of the coaches were at the same hotel, and everybody knew who the best team was. Everybody knew there was a pretty big disparity. To beat them, you'd have to play out of your mind. Their defence was phenomenal. For us, everything was perimeter shots, and contested perimeter shots. And they had the size if you did get in there. The few times we'd get drives to the basket deep, they'd just block it right out of there. Like, 'no, not today.' They were just very, very good."
Glendale coaches Mike Demaree and Mark Hopper hyped up the quarter-finals as a 'great opportunity.'
"We said 'we're going to play the best team in this tournament.' And sort of measure ourselves against them. 'Win or lose, we'll know where we stand.' That's how we sold it. We thought that if we could get off to a good start, maybe give them pause for thought - teams that win a lot, if you get on top of them you see how they react to that. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that. They got right on us... I think it was 9-0 right out of the gate before we scored."
Trent Sinden, who taped his toe, came back to play the first half against LaSalle in Round 2, and played most of the game against Ashbury.
"I got to give him (Sinden) credit," said Demaree. "That injury was extremely painful. I give him a lot of credit, he played through a lot of pain, and all things considered he played pretty well. Especially in that Ashbury game - he did not show any signs of being injured, with what was a pretty painful injury.
"I remember when it first happened, he said it felt like his toe had been severed from his foot. It wasn't, obviously, but that's the type of pain he felt."
Sinden had X-Rays after the tournament, and it was not broken.
"Not sure if it was dislocated or severely sprained," said Demaree. "It was painful, and it was turning colours."
Five of the Glendale senior boys will be graduating this year.
"An extremely successful season," said Demaree. "I think we ended up 30-4 at the end of the season, so we did have an extremely successful season. Going into this (OFSAA) we knew it was going to be tough and I thought, the first two rounds we were up to the challenge. The first game was scrappy and we fought just as hard as they did, and we came out ahead. In the second game we sort of found our groove and played to our abilities. In the third game, we went against probably one of the top three teams in the province (Ashbury, St. Mike's and Cambridge's St. Benedict). You can't be ashamed losing to those guys."
Former Glendale basketball coach Dan Rajnovich, who retired to the OFSAA host city of Sault Ste. Marie, was on hand to watch all three Tillsonburg games.
"It was really nice to see him," said Demaree. "I haven't seen him since he moved away. He (Rajnovich) made the point, after the Ashbury game, 'well, you keep the tradition alive... the last three times a Glendale (boys) team has gone to OFSAA, they've lost to the team that won it.' And that is how it's gone, it's just luck of the draw. It's just the way it is and you play them as they come.
"You're playing teams that are all winners of their leagues... and I found this tournament extremely competitive. After the team at the top, there were probably 10 teams that you weren't going to blow out. And then, maybe, the last 4-5 were teams that you'd go in thinking you were going to beat them. The teams we played, we needed to play with our best effort to beat them. If we didn't put out our best effort we were going to lose. That's way these tournaments are, it's supposed to be that way. It's the (provincial) championship.
"The kids loved it, they had a lot of fun," Demaree summed up. "And the community was amazing. We had some donations from John and Cindy Bes, from Jim Donaldson and some of the former coaches, and from Derek Partlo, from his dad's (Max Partlo) fund, and that was really nice. It gave us the money to take the kids out for team meals, and do some stuff with them while they were up there. I was really happy with the support we received from the community. It's a credit to the community for getting behind it. I don't know if this happens for other teams, but for this team, we got a lot of support from people in the community and the boys were aware of it. It's good to see."