VJM scores SAPEC title
Marauders defeat Lorne Akins for second city crown in three years in junior high hoops
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 06:00 am
The Vincent J. Maloney Marauders are back where they belong as SAPEC champions in junior high boys’ basketball.
And for the second time in three years, VJM upset the undefeated Lorne Akins Gators in the Tier 1 city final.
“I knew we could pull it off. I had good confidence in our team,” said captain Thomas Laxdal. “We have all the skill and all the talent and our heart was there too.”
Grade 9 post Aidan Mueller wasn’t surprised by the 64-53 result Friday at the SkyDome.
“At the start (of the season) we knew we were good and we could win,” said Mueller, who drained 19 points in the final. “We knew we could beat them so we had confidence going into it.”
The Gators finished first in league play with seven wins, including a 62-57 decision against a depleted VJM lineup in week two in the schedule. It was VJM’s only loss in SAPEC hoops this season.
In tournament play VJM posted a winning record against the Gators.
“It felt good to beat them in the final, especially after that loss,” Mueller said.
VJM battled back from deficits of nine after the first quarter and two at the break to take control of the contest in the second half.
“At first we weren’t playing at our best so we had to get our heads into the game and we did better on the press and made better passes and better choices. We eventually caught up and had the momentum. We kept scoring so we kept the lead and then we made the lead bigger as it went on,” said Mueller, 15.
The turnaround started by sinking the ball.
“In the second half all the shots dropped. In the first half they didn’t at all,” said Ryley Fetter, a Grade 9 forward who tossed in 14 points.
A pre-game pep talk by co-coach Aaron Kelly stoked VJM’s fire that burned bright despite the slow start.
“He gave us a wonderful speech at the beginning. He got our hearts up,” said Laxdal, as Mueller and Fetter nodded their heads in agreement.
The Gators were led by Naiem Qadiri’s 15 points, followed by Brendan Guy’s 10 and Brant Curtis’ seven.
The Gators are a quick team but smaller than VJM.
“They were a lot faster but we’ve got bigger bodies like this big guy here,” said Laxdal, while pointing at Mueller.
The Grade 9 shooting guard has a ton of respect for the Gators.
“I’ve got a lot of friends on that team and afterwards, when we all shook hands, they all said ‘you guys had a good game,’” said Laxdal, who contributed 11 points in the win.
VJM was the highest-scoring team in league play and ranked second only to the Gators on the defensive side of the ball.
“We all work together. There is not just one person that did it themselves,” Fetter said.
VJM also won three of the four tournaments it entered this season, including the SAPEC lid-lifter in January.
“We beat every single St. Albert team by plenty of points every single game we played in the first couple of tournaments and I guess that kind of shocked everybody, shocked the league and shocked the coaches and they had to readjust all their offences and defences to work against us,” said Laxdal, 14.
Last year VJM finished in a three-way tie with the Gators and the Richard S. Fowler Falcons at 6-1 for top spot in the standings, but in the semifinals the Marauders lost 76-67 in overtime to Fowler, who went on to win the SAPEC finial.
This year’s 11-player VJM roster was built around six Grade 9s.
“It’s good to win it for this year’s Grade 9s, especially since it’s our last chance to get a banner,” said Fetter, 14.