Every sport has its own spectator atmosphere vibe – High School basketball included. When I coached my first Senior girls’ team in southern Ontario (back in what for Canadian basketball was its late Medieval period (1985)…), raucous crowds and a jumping gym were more an exception than the rule. The Toronto Raptors, and the steady rise of basketball across the land have changed everything. And last Sunday afternoon, the White Pines Wolverines’ swept forward, securing the NOSAA Senior Boys’ A title, and a trip to the Provincials in a front of a lively, appreciative full house.
The atmosphere was terrific – and it was great to take things in. The Wolverines were full measure, too – decent, if unspectacular guard play (they rarely made unforced errors – always a good sign), with some big-time front court power on display. Forwards Chase Peplow and Logan Whitmell pounded the glass with abandon. Their work was nicely complemented by swing man Bishop Whitmell’s ability to go inside out – Bishop was a tough match up against zone, or man defences. Coaches sometimes get too little credit when their teams win, or end up wearing all the blame in defeat. The Wolverines’ Hue Higham kept his guys right on track. When your team has the lead, good coaching means never letting up. Coach Hue had it going, too.
It will be interesting to see how this White Pines crew fares at OFSSA. The elimination draw is often skewed (at least a little…) in favour of schools with a lengthier Provincials’ resumes than the Wolverines can post. I doubt that Peplow and Logan Whitmell will have the same size and strength advantages against other regional champions that they exploited at NOSSA. The Wolverine guards will inevitably face tougher, full court pressure, and more defensive quickness, where little errors quickly become magnified.
But after a long, fun-filled life spent on the hard court, I know that teams with camaraderie and chemistry are always a tough out. One seemingly trivial NOSSA incident tells the tale for these Wolverines…. the biggest cheers I heard all weekend were triggered at Saturday’s semi-final, when Coach Hue subbed in one of his reserves – and just like the movies, the crowd and Wolverines bench went bonkers when this kid converted his first shot. Nice ….