That all changed on Saturday, February 29 when this year’s team, built on leadership, camaraderie and talent, hosted the CISAA “Final Four” Championship game.
Going into the season, Coach Tony Young and his team knew they had a decent chance of capturing a CISAA banner. “Expectations were high, but I wasn’t fully confident we would win it all,” said Mr. Young. “We had a strong Grade 9 group last year and that bode well for the team as those students entered into Grade 10.”
According to Mr. Young, the team had a strong core of starters with a bench that helped in more than just minutes. “Kellan Sherman and Noah Smith were very important scoring options for us, with Liam Bousada running the point for the team. Toby Steinmann offered a down-low presence and Ethan Bain rounded out our usual starting lineup. Danyal Hakeem and Noah Katzin also played an important role as our sixth men off the bench.”
The enthusiasm and expectations were shared by his players, especially Kellan Sherman. “Our team felt we could go all of the way because of the work and effort every member put in throughout the course of the season, and throughout last summer as well.”
Athleticism and raw basketball talent helped push the team forward, but Mr. Young credits his very deep bench for molding the team together as one. “The rest of the players were outstanding in their play on the court, but also their attitudes on the bench. They felt it was about the team and waited for their opportunities to arrive – which they always took.”
The season started out as planned as the team racked up wins. But in a game versus Hillfield Strathallan College, Mr. Young had to put out a team missing some key members resulting in their first loss of the season versus a very strong side. This inspired Mr. Young to set up a camera and record the game for a key match against Ridley College. With the help of a keen parent, the game was filmed and then reviewed in the following practices. “We knew they would give us a great game and I wanted it for the next time we would play them. Players don’t usually get that opportunity at this level, so it was important that they could see how they play versus the perception. They found it extremely helpful. Many players, continued to study at home on their own time, including Liam Bousada.
“I know the players would watch it whenever they got the chance because we all wanted to improve,” said Liam. “You pick up on things you wouldn’t be able to pick up on in the heat of a game. This gave us an extra advantage.”
The team ended up winning that game and continued their streak all the way to the final game, ending their season with an 11-1 record. But before they could host their first playoff game, the players surprised Mr. Young with a warm up shirt, a picture of him with “Coach of the Year” underneath. “We made these t-shirts to show our appreciation. Mr. Young has taught us more about basketball this year than we could have imagined. We knew that whenever he had time, he would think about ways to make our team stronger. He often came to practice the day after a game with a new press or defense to teach us that made our team even harder to beat. Even during the game, his calmness always had a positive effect on us. He put so much time into the team and we wanted to thank him for it.” Mr. Young was very moved by this surprise, “It was a gesture that, for me, made the season even more special. I knew we all had a good relationship and for them to go to those lengths … it was heartwarming.”
The boys defeated The York School in the first playoff game, making them the hosts for the “Final Four” last weekend at CDS. All that momentum, confidence and video work continued to pay off as CDS brushed aside Ridley College setting up a Championship match versus Hillfield Strathallan, the only team they had lost to all season.
One final game and the record was reset. According to Mr. Young, “the game was a bit of a roller coaster, like many basketball games. There were many momentum changes – it was all very exciting. Toby Steinmann had an incredible four blocks in under 4 minutes – he was pumped.” Hillfield would catch up in the 2nd but CDS pulled away in the 3rd quarter. “One thing about our players is they are very smart athletically. After playing this team twice, our starters knew exactly who to target and the strengths and weaknesses of each (opposing) player.” From there, the team managed their lead as the clock ran down, resulting in the team’s first championship in 12 years, final score 51-48.
It was a great season to remember for both Mr. Young and his squad, some of whom are excited to continue to grow as basketball players on the Varsity team next year. “Mr. Milonas is gaining a bunch of players with talent and enthusiasm. They might need a little time to adjust, or maybe not, they are all very talented.”
Needless to say, CDS Basketball is in a good spot going forward.