By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The Saltfleet Storm senior boys’ basketball team is as good as gold.
The team won their first Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association AAA championship March 5 by upsetting the top ranked Windsor Catholic 54-50 at Notre Dame High School in Welland.
“I don’t know if it has really sunk in yet for the players,” said Salfleet Storm head coach Dave Ormerod as he surveyed the celebration. “It’s been more than 35 years since a Hamilton team has claimed a medal.”
As a large contingent of supporters cheered on the team, Saltfleet held off a determined Windsor Catholic Centre team for the championship.
“We have a lot of young guys and we matured faster than expected,” said Jim Weatherbee, the assistant coach.
The Storm was led by Nicola Djogo with 14 points, and Kingsley Olsen with 10. Darnell Curtin and Foster Brown chipped in with eight points each. Both Olsen and Curtin made crucial foul shots at the end of the game to extend the Storm’s lead.
The Storm was down to the high-flying Windsor team 49-46 at the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter. But a crucial three with less than a minute remaining put the Storm up by one. As the raucous crowd urged the Storm forward, Windsor was forced to foul, putting first Curtin than Olsen on the free throw line for one and a bonus. Each player managed a point each to up their lead by three. But it was enough as Windsor let fly a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer to tie the game that miss the basket, setting off a wild celebration by the players, coaches and crowd.
“This win is for the players, the parents, and the community,” said Weatherbee.
Saltfleet, winners of SOSSA only last month in the same Welland gym, were ranked third going into the provincial championship. Still, they had to endure their share of nail-biting close games throughout the three-day tournament to reach the finals.
Saltfleet edged Senator O’Connor from Toronto, and ranked ninth in the 16-team tournament by one point, 49-48. They smothered the 14th -seed Anderson 71-42, and managed to down cross-town rival St. Mary’s ranked sixth 51-45 in their quarter-final game.
In the semifinals, Saltfleet out-lasted a determined St. Patrick’s team, ranked seventh from Ottawa 60-52 to set up the championship match with Windsor, the defending champion.
Saltfleet managed a 23-19 lead at half-time in a hard-fought contest. It remained close after the third quarter at 38-37 for the Storm.
The Storm finished the regular season at the top of the eastern conference standings with a 13-1 record. The Storm reached OFSAA with convincing wins over the Governor Simcoe Redcoats of St. Catharines and the Niagara Falls St. Paul Patriots to win the SOSSA championship.