For the Mohawk College men’s basketball team the road to a second straight provincial and national championship begins in Toronto.
The Mountaineers are slated to hit the court in Ontario College Athletic Association championship tournament quarter-final action on Thursday when they face the Algonquin Thunder from Ottawa at 6 p.m. at Seneca College.
Mohawk finished the regular season with 16 wins and four losses, good for second place in the OCAA West Division behind the 18-2 Sheridan College Bruins.
Nationally, the Mountaineers are ranked fourth behind the Briercrest Clippers of the Alberta colleges conference, Langara Falcons of the Pacific-west and Sheridan.
While veterans such as Manny Campbell, Alex Reis, Taylor Dowhaniuk and Andrew Cicuttini are expected to see a lot of playing time, the Mountaineers’ success will also depend upon contributions from St. Thomas More graduates Xzennis Brereton, Jermaine Barr and Patrick Iavarone.
Brereton and Iavarone are in their first season with the team.
Barr is in his third season, but was sidelined last year due to tendinitis in his right knee.
“All three of them make big contributions for us,” said Mountaineers head coach Brian Jonker.
For 19-year-old Brereton, a starting shooting guard and architectural technology student, keeping the ball in the other team’s end of the court is his top priority.
“Just be the conductor of the defence,” he said.
Brereton said he believes the team has the talent to win a second consecutive national championship.
“We’re ready for a repeat of last year,” he said.
Iavarone spent the last three years at Brock University where he was unable to crack the men’s basketball team line-up.
“I feel I have a lot to prove,” said the 22-year-old civil engineering technology student and shooting guard who is about to get his first taste of post secondary action.
“I feel we can win any game,” he said. “We’re a very talented group, we’re very deep on the bench, no matter what five we have on the court, we can win any game.”
After cheering on his teammates last season, Barr said he’s hyped about his first college playoff game and he’s confident the Mountaineers can come out of the OCAA tournament on top.
“Our team chemistry is pretty good,” he said.
A power forward, Barr said his job is to grab rebounds and shoot when ever he gets the chance.
As defending provincial and national champions, Jonker said the Mountaineers have been wearing a bull’s-eye all season.
“Everybody that played us, it’s kind of been a big deal for all of them,” Jonker said.
He noted with four starting players back from last season, the team features a good mix of veterans and new faces and he believes the depth of talent on the squad is deeper than it has ever been.
Jonker said the club is better defensively than it was last season.
He noted the Mountaineers need to win their next three games to capture another provincial championship and three more after that to repeat as national champions.