The Orillia Lakers U14 Boys entered their first weekend basketball tournament in three years and picked up exactly where they left off, winning gold at the IEM Tournament in Newmarket.
Nearly three years ago, the team had won an excited championship in the AA tournament as U11s. It was their last game before the pandemic arrived. Tournament play is finally back this year and the Lakers hoped to show how much they had improved. The Lakers registered in the AAA division facing the top 10 of the 33 other U14 Boys rep teams that entered.
In their first game, the Lakers started slow before pulling away for a 50-30 victory over Kingston Impact. They continued the momentum into their second game with the Woodbridge Lions, starting on an 18-2 run and never looking back on their way to a 56-30 win.
Things got exciting in a must-win third game vs. the host IEM Spartans in the early game Sunday morning. After struggling to find their rhythm and trailing by seven with three minutes left, the team came alive. Nathan Litherland started the comeback with four quick points and an 8-0 run had the Lakers up one entering the final minute.
After a Newmarket free throw briefly tied it, the Lakers executed perfectly against the Spartans zone defence and Caden Mcfee found Kelechi Nwokeke with a perfect backdoor feed for the winning bucket. The Lakers finished on a 12-1 run to win 55-51. The Lakers then secured a spot the championship game with a 57-36 win over Ottawa Next Level.
In the championship game, the Lakers faced a tough Durham Rising Suns team that had beaten the Lakers very easily when they met last season. The first half was a struggle and the Lakers found themselves down 29-21 when the Suns hit a near half court shot at the halftime buzzer. The Suns then started the second half with the ball and hit another three-pointer for a 32-21 lead.
From there, the Lakers' defence took over limiting the Suns to only five points more points (all free throws) for the quarter and creating some easy baskets off turnovers. The Lakers were back in front 38-37 entering the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was beautiful basketball and neither team was able to pull away. In the final 90 seconds, the Lakers twice scored the potential winning basket on assists from Takoda Plett to Caden Mcfee only to have the Suns respond and tie the game on tough shots. A third bucket from McFee, on a great pass from Jayden Spezzano proved to be the winner as the Lakers finally got a stop with 13 seconds left. William Lepage, who played every minute of the final, matched up with the Rising Suns' top scorer, iced the game at the free throw line for a 55-51 win.
Caden McFee finished with 24 points and was named the MVP of the championship game. Kelechi Nwokeke won a well-earned MVP for the tournament.
The U14 Lakers Boys now have 20 wins and two losses on the season. They would like to thank their sponsors JL Construction, Oscar’s Variety and Market, 125 Breakfast, Master Lube, The Buck Group and IRP Industrial Rubber for allowing their return to tournament play.