Barons claim crown after so-so season

Ups and downs erased as Oakwood hoopsters win gold at OFSAA

Oakwood Barons might have lost their TDSSAA regional final and the city championship, but the persevering basketballers proved their mettle with a 4A OFSAA gold, won by beating Father Henry Carr Crusaders 40-38 on March 6 at Humber College in Mississauga.

Hunkered in Oakwood’s health room a fortnight after being crowned best in province, Barons standouts Brody Clarke, a forward, and point guard Calvin Epistola recalled the ups and downs of the 2013-14 campaign.

“Pretty unreal,” the 6-foot-7 Clarke said. “I mean, it’s something that we talked about all year: ‘This team can win OFSAA’. “We would have bad games or losses but we’d say, it’s okay, because we’re going to get it all back at OFSAA.”

“When the buzzer went, I put both of my hands in the air, and I just ran to my teammates and started jumping,” Epistola added.

Sharing in the moment with them was coach Anthony Miller, who has won two OFSAA titles in five years. Outside of Miller, the other connection to the 2010 OFSAA team is Clarke, whose brother Julian was a stalwart contributor then.

Miller, however, said it’s the school’s expectation to win an OFSAA title once every four years.

“It’s the same task that we talked about at the beginning of the year — the task was to win an OFSAA championship and it hadn’t changed by losing those two games,” Miller said, a hint of amazement in his voice. “The end goal was still the same.

“We just had to work on our focus.”

When Miller and company mention bad games, they refer to their losses to Eastern Commerce Saints in both the South Region final and the city championship. The latter was a deflating 70-68 overtime loss.

But when it mattered the most, the Barons came through with a 63-43 win over their Toronto District School Board rivals in the quarter-finals.

“To beat [the Saints] pretty handily in the quarters, and to get a chance to play Henry Carr in the finals makes it pretty good,” Miller said. “Whoever you play in the finals, you’re going to play and try to win.”

However, the greatest victory for the team, according to both Clarke and Epistola, was the chance to bond as a team during the three-day tournament.

“We really were like a family,” Clarke said. “We got to spend time with each other, we knew each other’s habits (and) by the end of the week we were probably sick of each other but we didn’t want it to end.”

The two rattle off players who didn’t have the focus on them during the season but were key to their golden finish. Clarke mentioned Grade 10 guard Tyrell O’Brien, without whom he is convinced the Barons would have lost OFSAA.

Epistola gave his shout out to fifth-year veteran Jordan Rose, who tweaked his offensive game to accommodate a more defensive

“Two years ago he was our second highest scorer, and this year we asked him to showcase his game less, and be more of a defender, and be our glue guy,” Miller said.

The coach acknowledged the team has been more successful in tournaments than in regular season play.

“It’s really the team coming together,” he said. “We didn’t really have crazy ups and downs.

“It’s a long season, and there’s a lot of growth that happens within that time. It’s good seeing these kids achieving the goal.”

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By: Brian Baker
Posted: Apr 11 2014 9:12 am
Filed in: Sports
Edition: Toronto