The St. Ignatius Falcons secured home court advantage by the slimmest of margins. Such was not the case in the championship final.
The Falcons used a smothering defence to defeat the Westgate Tigers 45-25 in the Thunder Bay high school junior boys basketball final for their sixth consecutive title city title. The teams split a pair of regular season contests — 55-43 for St. Ignatius, 67-61 in favour of Westgate-— while both squads accumulated 11-1 records in the regular season.
The Falcons held a plus six-point aggregate edge to gain home court advantage.
The city-leading Westgate offence (749 points) was shut down by a stingy Falcon defence that allowed just 392 points over 12 regular season games.
Second-year Falcon Jett Sweitzer lead all scorers with 10 points.
“Our defence was, honestly, the best we probably played all year,” said Sweitzer. “Good paint protection, good shots, good switches. Just everything overall on defence was good.”
Sweitzer was also on board for the 2019 championship run.
“Feels same as last time,” said the 10th grader. “This is good, if not better.”
Neither team scored through the first 2:19 of the game. St. Ignatius sunk a basket, Westgate tied it up, but the Falcons took the lead from there and never looked back.
“We talked about defence for the last two weeks we prepped for Westgate,” said Falcon head coach DJ Quaresima. “Kept them to 25. Battle of the defence, that’s for sure. That’s what we preached for the last two weeks.
“I told the kids before the game that if we rebound the ball, keep them out of the middle, keep them from getting into the paint, we’re going to win this game,” Quaresima added. “(St. Ignatius) bought in to what the coaches were selling. Coach (Cory) Keeler (Tigers coach) gave us a good run.”
Quaresima collected his fifth-straight title as head coach, and was an assistant for the 2015 winner.
St. Ignatius defeated Superior 71-53 to reach the final, while the Tigers punched their ticket with a 46-40 win over Hammarskjold.
St. Ignatius built an 8-3 lead through one quarter, held a 17-11 edge through half time, outscored the Tigers 16-4 in the pivotal 3rd, and edged Westgate 12-10 in the final frame.
Ben Kim, Jackson Lawrence and Aaron Stickel added eight points each in support of Sweitzer, while Connor Psikila had eight points — all in the fourth quarter — to pace the Tigers.
“They’re defence was stronger (Wednesday) than the last time we played them,” said Keeler. “We didn’t adjust. They competed, I think, harder than we did today. They shot the ball really well and that’s partially because of our defence wasn’t strong enough. Even 45 points allowed is not a lot either. We did OK on defence. At times we just allowed some wide open shots and they hit some tough shots. They did most of their damage on the perimeter. 20 points (down) in the finals . . . hard to swallow.”
Keeler, in his 24th year as head coach, secured the 2014 title for Westgate, the last time any team other than the Falcons has taken home the prize.
The Tigers were dominant over the Falcons in city’s junior girls volleyball final, however.
Westgate defeated the Falcons in straight sets 25-12, 25-21 and 25-10 in their home gym to win the SSSAA crown. The Falcons saw an 11-point lead evaporate in the middle set, as the 9-1 Tigers poured on the coals. St. Ignatius (5-5) upset St. Patrick 3-1 to reach the finals, while Westgate won 2-0 over the Vikings to gain their berth.
Westgate’s senior girls volleyball team takes over home court this weekend. The Tigers host the Northwestern Ontario AA final against the Fort France Muskies.
The best-of-seven series starts at 2 p.m. on Friday with Game 2 slated for 7 p.m. If a third game is necessary, it will be played on Saturday morning. The regional champion advances to OFSAA, March 9-11 in Kingsville.
Meanwhile, St. Ignatius’ senior boys basketball team travels to Fort Frances for the Northwestern Ontario final.
Game 1 is Friday night.