Traditionally a Division II school within the SDSSAA sporting spectrum, the Bishop Alexander Carter Gators senior boys basketball team took the leap to Division I play last year, looking to raise the level of their game.
The move appears to be paying dividends as the undermanned Hanmer crew eliminated the likes of St. Benedict's and Macdonald-Cartier, advancing to the championship final of the Jaak Valiots Memorial Tournament, before succumbing to the Collège Notre-Dame (CND) Alouettes 62-52 this past weekend.
Battling a pair of key injuries and with just eight bodies on the bench, the Gators led the contest at half-time, holding a 28-18 advantage before CND stormed back on their home court. Fifth-year guard Eric Lavergne-Giroux paced a fairly balanced Alouette attack, netting 21 points, with Grade 10 playerAlex Gareau adding 13 and Mathieu Depatie chipping in with 12.
Scoring-machine Shane Blouin recorded a game high 29 points in helping to keep Bishop Carter close.
Coming off a tough 57-55 loss to Lo-Ellen in league play last week, Notre-Dame seemed caught a little off guard in the early going against the Gators, something head coach Luc Giroux addressed at the half. "During the first half, we were a little sluggish on defense, and we were missing a lot of scoring opportunities," he said.
With some players also suiting up with the CND senior boys volleyball team, which advanced to the NOSSA final a little over a week back before being eliminated, Giroux and his team have been challenged to get much practice time together to date, though he's seeing signs of progress.
"Every game that we are playing and seeing as coaches, we are getting better as a team," said Giroux. "They're beginning to work as a unit, they're beginning to see each other, either on offense or defense."
Bishop Carter, on the other hand, might be 0-2 in regular season play, but remained within 10 points while losing to both pre-season favourites, the Lasalle Lancers and Lockerby Vikings.
The absence of post Evan Spurrell and shutdown defensive guard Justin Chalut to injuries has created a dilemma for Gators coach Sean Gilroy, who said he believes that a fast-paced game generally favours his team, although not so much with a shortened bench.
"This is how we like to play — we're still trying to figure it out and master it," Gilroy said. "But when we do, I think that we'll be even more dangerous."
While Blouin was clearly the key on offense for the Gators in this game, Gilroy insisted that his team needs to display greater variety to their game if they are to achieve any success against quality teams.
"I talked about it after the game today, we need to achieve balance," Gilroy said. "So far this year, we are falling in love with the three-point shot, and if we're on, were running away with games like we did with St. Benedict's. Or if we fall in love with driving, and it's working, that's all we do.
"We need to achieve a balance where we're driving, but then kicking out at times," he added.
Both Bishop Carter and Notre-Dame are among the 32 entries heading to North Bay this weekend for the 53rd Annual Tomahawk Invitational Boys Basketball Tournament hosted by the Chippewa Raiders.
The tournament is among the oldest in Canada, started back in the 1950s by North Bay Hall of Famer, Art Gabor. In addition to the 32 senior teams participating, an equal number of junior squads will also be on hand for the competition that runs on Friday and Saturday.