The 9th annual All Canada Classic concluded on Sunday after a thrilling weekend of skill filled basketball in the GTA. The event began on Thursday night with a fundraiser for Basketball Canada. Many guests and sponsors showed their support in raising over $3000. On Friday night, Seneca College hosted the skills competitions, where the players exhibited their finely tuned skills in the two-ball, 3-point competition and dunk-off. Saturday was a display of the best high school basketball had to offer in the “Classic Rumble Game” for both men and women as well as the first inaugural men’s and women’s alumni game, which highlighted the best players who have participated in previous Rumble Games.
Friday night started off with the two ball competition. During a time limit, a team is supposed to score as many baskets as possible, more points being given for distance and more difficult shots. Teams consisted of one male and one female and the winning duo was Jemino Sobers and Kimberly Gibbs. They credited their strategy of taking quick shots from the perimeter, while wasting little time to set up a shot, which helped them mass 240 points.
The 3-point competition was entertaining as well. Each player was given two rebounders to help them and Silver Laku, a Western University graduate and Phase 1 Alumni, took home the honours as the winner of the competition for the male’s.
“That’s what I can do. I can hit the 3’s,” Silver said with a smile.
In the female competition, rising star Jenna Bullard outshot all the other competitors for the win in her first 3 point competition.
“You can’t put pressure on yourself,” Jenna said. “When you let go of the ball, that’s it and you just have to hope for the best.”
The dunk-off is always the main and this was no different. There were many celebrity judges including The Score’s Sherman Hamilton as well as Pops Mensa-Bonsu. While many attempted many creative dunks, Vancouver’s own high school senior Emerson Murray from St.George’s high school slammed his way to victory in the dunk-off, with his second dunk being a chest pass off the wall behind the basket, then finishing with one hand. The other finalist, Kevin Messiah, had no answer and Although Emerson’s final dunk was incomplete, that dunk helped to seal his victory, bringing another skills competition victory to the West for the Tournament overall.
The weekend however was just getting started.
Saturday opened with the women’s alumni game where the East came out strong in the first quarter sitting ahead of the West by six points. However, the West picked up the pace and ended the first half within two points of the East. After a couple of turnovers by the East, Coach Dawkins’ West team started to battle back from being down by ten points. Determined not to let go of their lead they ended up finishing the game with a thrilling come from behind victory of 66-56. The most valuable player awards were handed out to Stephany Skrba and Kim Gibbs for the West and East respectively.
In the Women’s Rumble game, the West outplayed the East 57-46. At one point the game was relatively close, but the West pulled away, especially in the second half thanks in large part to Jeanea Barrett, the MVP for the West. Mary Lapierre was the MVP for the East.
The men’s alumni game was not only as entertaining as expected, it was better. In a back and forth affair the West beat the East with a thrilling 101-96 victory in overtime.
The East started off by dominating the West with their size. Denham Brown, a University of Conneticut graduate, had the hot hand for the West but they were down 19-12 in the opening minutes of the first half. Coach Mike Kennedy continued substituting his players five at a time, a strategy to confuse Coaches Pops and Kojo Mensa-Bonsu’s West team. The West crawled back, but two consecutive alley-oops regained the domination for the East. Denham led a comeback near the end of the first half to cut the lead to 50-48 at the break.
The second half started off with a ten point run by the East as they went up 65-53 early in the half. Slowly, Denham led the fight back and chipped away at the lead. What became a 12 point lead became a seven point lead and that eventually became a one point game. Denham’s fellow West Hill Collegiate alumni member Jevohn Shepherd caught the hot hand for the East and consecutive three pointers by J-Shep extended the lead to 11 for the East. Once again however, it was the West who fought back and Denham drove the lane for two of his game high 40. Tristan Martin was fouled but he could only hit one of two free throws which made the lead 90-88 for the East with 3.7 seconds left. Jermaine Anderson missed his shot on the other end of the floor, but Denham Brown was there for the put back with 0.3 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
The West opened up with a quick lead with Denham Brown’s six free throws in the overtime period to give the West the 97-92 lead. Although the East brought the game within one, Kevin Messiah’s high flying dunk sealed the game for the West giving them the 101-96 victory.
Coach Pops said at half time that the strategy was to tire the West out. Although that strategy did not seem to work at first, it clearly did by the time the final buzzer sounded.
The men’s rumble game was every bit as good as it has been years before. The impressive high school talent was on display in the early going when Corey Joseph’s explosive dunk gave the East an early 20-18 advantage. Brady Heslop answered with a three pointer and after two quick baskets by the East, Heslop answered again for the West with another long distance basket at the top of the key. On the next position Heslop showed his versatility, as he drove in the lane for a layup. The West were dominating early, especially after an alley-oop by Tristan Thompson which brought the audience to their feet. The West took a 41-33 lead at halftime and continued to dominate in the second half and were 90-75.
With the help of Junior Cadougan though, the East fought back. The East charge cut the lead to nine with less then three minutes to play. Cadougan sunk a basket and was fouled on the play but missed the ensuing free throw; however on the offensive rebound a three pointer made it a one point game. Down by three, Maurice Walker caught an offensive rebound for the East but his put back was waved off as an offensive foul. That was as close as the East came to victory as the West pulled away with a 107-101 victory. Junior Cadougan took the MVP honours for the East, while Brady Heslop was the MVP for the West for his early dominance.
It was nine hours of outstanding basketball and the awards were handed out the following day.
Johnnie Williams and Pops Mensa-Bonsu gave outstanding speeches to the athletes and other members of the audience at the Awards Banquet on Sunday afternoon. Many awards were handed out including the lifetime achievement award which was given to Lou Sialtsis.
Sialtsis was a former Eastern Commerce Head Coach for 27 years. Lou brought the notion of family into his coaching style and many have said that the one thing Lou always stressed was getting an education and teaching kids to be great young men and women.
Maurice Walker was given the Mr. Basketball Ontario award. The 6’10 Centre had been playing for Mother Teresa. Miss Basketball Ontario was given to Oditte Odishio.
Miss Basketball Canada was given to Christine Hyde. Alwayne Bigby was given the Mr. Basketball Canada award. The 6’4 guard had been playing at Eastern Commerce.
The All Canada Classic continues to grow. With each passing year new stars are born and brought to light and now, the stars who have went on to bigger leagues and events are still participating in this nine year old event. The 2010 All Canada Classic, year ten, should be even more remarkable.