For the first time in the 74-year history of the Orillia Blackball boys' basketball tournament, a local team has won the senior boys' championship.
The Orillia Secondary School (OSS) Nighthawks fell short in the championship game the previous two years, but they put that disappointment behind them Saturday night on their home court, defeating the Frontenac Secondary School Falcons 53-38.
It was a tightly-contested game until mid-way through the fourth quarter when Grade 10 student Caleb Clark marched down the hardwood and drained a 3-point shot, swinging momentum in the favour of the Nighthawks. Clark finished the game with an 8-point night.
The Nighthawks were able to pull away from the Falcons, who travelled from Kingston for the two-day tourney, when their experienced players, who had played in those two heartbreaking championship losses, took over the contest.
Veteran Matt Mercer led the way. He was the game's top scorer; he netted five three-pointers and 17 points overall. Thanks to his strong play throughout the tourney, he was named to the tournament all-star team.
Fellow veteran Garrett Van Amelsvoort tallied 11 points for the victors and had a few key game-breaking drives into the paint.
Ryan Heim was the other Nighthawks vet who took control of the game, knocking down three three-point shots en route to a 13-point night.
The difference in this year's Blackball final for the Nighthawks was experience, Heim said.
“After we lost the first one, we went into the second one with anxiety, but we weren’t going to let that happen again," Heim said after the victory. "We approached this game with a must-win mentality.”
Nighthawks head coach Mike Tutty was seen in the fading moments of the fourth quarter fighting his emotions.
“This is a thrilling moment for our community,” Tutty said with a smile.
“To have this electric crowd behind us tonight, and have the kids actually pull it off is unbelievable,” Tutty added.
The 74th edition of the tournament had no shortage of exciting basketball involving Orillia teams.
Twin Lakes Secondary School pulled off the upset of the tournament against G.L Roberts Friday morning, 47-46, on a buzzer beating three-pointer by Aaron Macdonald.
On the junior side of the tournament no Orillia team advanced to the championship rounds, however Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School defeated OSS in the ‘Battle of Orillia’ in a nail biting 57-52 contest Saturday.
Blackball is the longest, continuously running high school basketball tournament in Canada.