Georges Vanier senior boys don’t see their ousting in the AAA City basketball semis as a reason to hang their heads.
Though they lost 86-51 back on Feb. 16 to Richview, the starting five members have been given an even better gift: a North Region title.
The Vikings beat Emery 50-49, Feb. 14 in a tight match in the Eagles’ house.
With C.W. Jeffreys and Emery crowding the title plaque with their names, it was time for someone new to be remembered, said team captain Deshawn Pinnock.
“Our main drive was to make the playoffs again because last year we lost by two points to Westview Centennial,” he said. “This year when we played Emery it was the same situation but we played more as a team.”
That teamwork was what elevated the squad to two major tournament titles, including the local Hoopdome event.
Vikings coach Mike Milligan said he had the privilege of a strong player at every position from the unselfish play of point guard Abobaker Belol, the scoring of Pinnock and Hassen Hassen, along with the screening of Mark Kinglocke and brickwall defence of 6-foot-8 centre Hudson Simon.
“When you’ve got a big guy storming through the key there are not a lot of guys who are going to get in his way,” Milligan said of Simon, who had eight blocks in the first half of the Richview game.
Still, what stunted Vanier’s OFSAA hopes against the Saints were the hot hands of Patrick Street who sunk trey after trey.
“He hit so many in a row that, I don’t want to say it broke our will, but it gave them a nice big lead,” Milligan said. “We battled back from that deficit to only trail by six points at halftime.”
Regardless of bowing out of a provincial pursuit, Hassen said he is happy with the season. The memory of being North Region champs will stick with him like a last-minute swish during March Madness.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said. “I’m going to come back and see the younger generation of us — it’s going to be a big surprise to see them play under coach Milligan.”
Teammate Kinglocke echoed the sentiment, saying the difference from last year, where the team lost in the AAA semis to Western Tech, was playing as a unit.
His big game, during the Hoopdome, came because his mother, Alison Dorrington, was watching.
“My mom came and watched me play that game and I hadn’t seen her in a while and I just wanted to show her I could play,” Kinglocke said. “And help my team out to get that W.”
“Everybody knew how to play with each other,” Hassen said. “We played as a team because it doesn’t matter how many points you score as long you play hard.”
For 2013, Milligan will have a new starting line-up, but he lauds the young men moving on post-Georges Vanier.
“They are fifth year seniors and this is their last kick at the can,” he said. “That’s why I am so proud of them for actually being able to pull it off.”
Pinnock admitted he will not let the memory fade.
“It’s an honour to be a part of this team,” he said. “Twenty years from now, I’ll remember myself as being a champion at Vanier.
“It was a crazy feeling when it happened.”
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