BY: Kareem Griffin of INCHARGE Sports & Entertainment
St. Michaels College Blue Raiders 79 – Father Henry Carr Crusaders 46
It was a packed house on a cold Sunday afternoon in midtown Toronto, where the final stage was set for the 55th annual Nike St. Michael’s Blue Raideer Tournament Championship game. The 18-1 St. Mikes Blue Raiders had the task of taking on a gritty Father Henry Carr Crusader squad who booked their ticket to the final after a semifinal thriller against nationally ranked Pine Ridge C.I. The afternoon was full of excitement as St. Mike’s alum and Raptors television analyst Leo Rautins and Toronto Raptors Center Jonas Valanciunas were in attendance to watch some of Ontario’s top talented ballers vie for the title. Jonas added a special treat for the buzzing crowd by calling out the player introductions and throwing up the ceremonial tip to start the game! It’s great to see the Raptors getting immersed in Toronto basketball culture!
With all this added excitement, St. Mikes did not want to disappoint their home crowd and came out with incredible level of energy, scoring two quick transition baskets right out of the gate. Henry Carr struggled to match St. Mike’s’ intensity and was unable to have the start that they might have hoped for. Tourney MVP Nelson Kaputo of St. Mike’s did a great job early of controlling the tempo for his team. His poise and determination was clearly evident and displayed the passion that he had to win the Championship. Giving his team great looks inside and out, Kaputo’s ability to get into the middle of the floor was the key to their success. Henry Carr Head Coach Paul Melnik, realizing that the game could get away from him and the Crusaders, was forced to call an early timeout to not only stop St. Mike’s run but to rally and inspire his young men to play harder to get back into the game. Making the necessary adjustments on defense to contain Kaputo was somewhat of a success, but they forgot that sophomore Guard Marcus Carr had game too. Taking over at the PG position, He was able to get to the middle of the floor off the dribble and either get open looks or dump it into forward Danilo Djuricic, a Tournament All-Star, who showcased his inside/outside game with dominance. By the second quarter Carr was able to get out in transition and score a couple buckets. St. Mikes however, poured on the pressure by keeping the Crusaders out of the middle of the floor and forced them to take outside shots. St. Mike’s was able to get out and run, hitting the cutters and spot up shooters like Nikola Paradina for easy scores, especially from three-point land. St. Mike’s was hitting on all cylinders in the first half, knocking the wind out of Henry Carr with a 28-9 second quarter run to extend their lead to 44-15 at the end of the first half.
In the second half Henry Carr was able to briefly disrupt St. Mike’s rhythm. By making a few adjustments defensively, they were able to momentarily throw the Blue Raiders off their incredible first half rhythm. But the poise of Kaputo & Carr in the back court and the do everything effort from Tournament All-Star Kaion Julien-Grant, enabled the home team was able to weather the early third quarter storm by Henry Carr. By being patient on offense and applying ball pressure on defense, St. Mike’s was able to continue to show their home crowd why they are the most talked about team in Canadian High School basketball. Going into the fourth quarter up 31 on the Crusaders, it was safe to say that the game was totally out of reach. St. Mike’s did not at any point let up on a Henry Carr team that has the ability and coaching to make comebacks. They stepped on the pedal and did not take it off until the buzzer sounded.
A very nice bright spot for the Crusaders was the play of John Akende as the tournament progressed. The sophomore starting guard got stronger as the tournament went on, culminating in his 22pt performance in the game. Another young player rapidly improving for Henry Carr is Mychael Paulo. Marcus Bonnick, Shamar Bailey-Decoteau, Kyle LeFave & Shae Brown left it all on the court in the final as well. Unfortunately for them they faced a team in St. Mike’s that was laser-focused from minute one of game 1 of the tournament!
With this win, the Blue Raiders improved to an amazing 18-0 record against Canadian competition and 26-1 overall(8-1 in the U.S.). Their only loss coming from U.S . nationally ranked Roman Catholic from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at a recent tournament in Binghamton, New York. With a little more than two months left in the High School boys basketball season, a question on the basketball community’s mind is who can stop this tough Blue Raiders team on their road to OFSAA AAAA gold? Will they win it all? Can they do it undefeated against Canadian competition?
With the way they played this past weekend, it might be almost impossible for any Canadian team to beat them!
Danilo Djuricic scored a game-high 25pts to lead St. Mike’s. Sophomore John Akende scored 22pts to lead Father Henry Carr
St. Mike’s won all four of their games by a cumulative total of 131 points and an average margin of victory 32.8 points per game!
Fowzi Mohamoud – Vaughan
CJ Bennett – Campion
John Akende – Henry Carr
Kaion Julien-Grant – St. Mike’s
Danilo Djuricic – St. Mike’s
Tournament MVP & On Point Performer – Nelson Kaputo – St. Mike’s
***In 2 games after the tournament St. Mike’s defeated St. John Kilmarnock and Crescent School to improve to 20-0 vs. Canadian teams.***
Written by Kareem Griffin
Edited by Drew Ebanks