Trojans march to victory

Matthew Mustapic, centre, of the St. Ignatius Falcons splits the Churchill Trojans defence of Jerred White (34) and Mo Syed during basketball action at Superior CVI.
(Sandi Krasowski)
Matthew Mustapic, centre, of the St. Ignatius Falcons splits the Churchill Trojans defence of Jerred White (34) and Mo Syed during basketball action at Superior CVI. (Sandi Krasowski)

By Matt Vis
Colin Hunter and the defending city senior boys’ basketball champion Churchill Trojans made an emphatic statement in their opportunity to lay claim to a title this season.
Hunter poured in a game-high 33 points to lead Churchill to a 93-64 victory over the St. Ignatius Falcons in the final of the Thunder Bay high school tournament at Superior high school on Thursday.
The victory in the final cements an undefeated tournament for the Trojans, where they won all three games they played over the two days.
Although Hunter was happy to win the tournament he is disappointed that his team lost the potential opportunity to avenge last year’s regional loss to Fort Frances and then have the chance to proceed to provincial championships.
After starting regular season play in December, the winter sports season was largely lost as a result of the provincial public high school teachers’ union suspending extracurricular activities as part of their negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I don’t think that’s fair to be honest,” admitted Hunter, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student. “That sucks. Especially our last year of high school we wanted to go compete there and redeem ourselves for last year at NWOSSAA, but whatever I guess.”
The tournament victory marks the third consecutive year that this group of Trojans has prevailed with a city title of some form. The team core of Hunter, Justin Fui, Mohammed Syed and Jarred White captured the junior title in 2011 before winning the senior title last year.
Churchill head coach Cory Keeler credits this chemistry and continuity as being a crucial factor in his team’s ability to overcome the disrupted season and still play at a high level.
“From Grade 10, 11 and 12, they haven’t lost,” Keeler said. “They played well together, they play club together, they’re in the gym all the time, a lot of them are gym rats and it makes a big difference. A lot of them are really committed. Some of them want to keep playing basketball after they’re done high school. It makes a difference.”
The Trojans were in control of the game from the opening tip, as they started on an 8-0 run against a St. Ignatius team that had to play four games to reach the final, including an 89-79 overtime win against the Westgate Tigers in the semifinal.
Churchill led 39-25 at halftime, paced by 13 first-half points from Hunter and nine from Syed.
Hunter was not surprised by his team’s effort, crediting their experience playing together as a group.
“We all know how we played together for four years now, so it’s nothing new for us,” he said.
The Falcons were able to close to within a dozen points in the third quarter, but the Trojans pulled away and put the game out of reach due in large part to the outside marksmanship of Hunter.
Fui finished with 20 points, and Syed chipped in 18 for Churchill. In the final, Matthew Mustapic led the Falcons with 20 points, while Nick Soulias added 15. Both Mustapic and Soulias surpassed the 30-point mark in their semifinal win.
In the third-place game, Westgate outlasted the Hammarskjold Vikings, scoring a 50-45 victory. Hammarskjold’s Keenan Postans led all scorers in that game scoring 20 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter in a comeback bid that fell narrowly short. Mitchell Jackowski contributed 16 points to lead the Tigers.
Not participating in the tournament was St. Patrick, who represented the region at the Ontario championships in early March.