In the end Austin Ladouceur was one former Blue Devil the St. Catharines Collegiate Saints were not able to exorcise.
With 12.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Ladouceur, who last year played basketball for the Ridgeway-Crystal Beach Blue Devils, scored a layup to give his new team, the Greater Fort Erie Gryphons, a two-point lead in Standard High School Basketball Tournament consolation semifinal action at St. Catharines Collegiate.
The Grade 10 student made sure that lead would stand stealing the ball at midcourt on the Saints’ next, and as it would quickly turn out, final possession of the third-round game won by the Gryphons by a 66-64 score.
Ladouceur, who is playing in his first Standard Tournament — as is Greater Fort Erie, Niagara’s newest high school — was hard-pressed to choose which play he appreciated more.
“Probably the steal,” he said after some thought, “but the basket is pretty nice.
“I went in nice and he was just going to foul.”
Eighth-seeded Greater Fort Erie took the court against Collegiate, the No. 13 seed at the 16-team senior boys showcase, missing two of its tallest players. Joel Coopman, a 6-foot-3 forward, was home dealing with “migraine issues,” and 6-foot-3 centre Liam Allcroft was out of the lineup recovering from an ankle sprain.
Ladoucher said the Gryphons knew they had a big void to fill in the elimination game against the Saints.
“We just had to make sure we boxed out, and have our second line really show up.”
Despite missing several players lately, the tournament has gone “pretty well” for Greater Fort Erie in terms of gaining big-game experience.
“We have been learning a lot,” said Ladouceur, who had a team-high 11 points in the second half alone.
Greater Fort Erie, which was relegated to the consolation side of the bracket following a 59-45 loss to the ninth-ranked Thorold Golden Eagles on opening day of the four-day tournament, shot 46 per cent from the floor, making 29 of 63 attempts.
Robert Smith and Clayton Thomas-Harris each scored 20 points for the Saints who drained 36.2 per cent of their layup and three-point attempts, shooting 25-for-69.
Smith liked everything but the result.
“I love being able to have the home-court advantage because the crowd is going to be really loud, no matter who you’re playing,” the Grade 12B student said.
One of Collegiate’s goals coming into the tournament was being able to play at least one game at home. The Saints achieved that by rebounding from a qualifying-round loss to the Denis Morris Reds by beating the Blessed Trinity Thunder in the quarter-final round.
“I wish we would get to play tomorrow (in the B final), but it’s OK.”
He said poor play of defence in the first half contributed to the disappointing loss.
“Defensively, we weren’t there in the first half,” Smith said after competing in his fifth Standard Tournament. “In the second half we picked up the slack, but we just couldn’t hold on.
“So if we picked up on defence in the first half and started off early, we would have been good.”
We picked up the slack, but we couldn’t hold on.”
The 56th Standard High School Basketball Tournament wraps up today with a championship doubleheader at St. Catharines Collegiate. Action tips off with the B final at 5:30 p.m. with the championship game getting underway at 7:45 p.m.