Brébeuf Braves Secure Spot in OFSAA Basketball

Brébeuf Braves Secure Spot in OFSAA Basketball Championships
Posted on 02/27/2024

By Larry Moko
A St. Jean de Brébeuf senior boys’ basketball team, which initially faced challenges at the start of the season, now has the potential to advance further than any of its predecessors.

The Braves, who went 0-3 and 2-5 to begin the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school hoops schedule, captured the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference title on Monday.

Brébeuf qualified for the March 4-6 Ontario AAA high school championships with a hard-fought 64-59 victory in Milton over the Bishop Reding Royals.

“They tell us that SJB hasn’t gone to OFSAA since 1981,” Braves’ veteran guard Kevahn Taylor said. “So this was a big win for our team. I think we’re ready. We’ve just to put in some more work, stay humble, stay composed and finish it.”

In 1981, Brébeuf was a consolation finalist at the eight-team competition in Hamilton. This year’s OFSAA showcase, with 18 entries, will again be held in Hamilton -- at Saltfleet District and Glendale high schools.
Taylor led all scorers with 31 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter when he drained 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.

“Kevahn has been our leader all year,” Brébeuf coach Jae Dunphy said. “If we’re going to close out a game we want him to have the ball in his hands.

“It’s pretty tough to get us riled up or rattled. We keep a level head. Kevahn calmly knocked down those free throws like he was in the back yard or the park.”

The Royals went on a 13-2 run to grab a 55-53 lead, however. The Braves then regained the advantage on a three-point play by Taylor and a putback by Omaree Francis.

Two defensive plays in the final minute helped seal the deal for Brébeuf. On the first, Joey Nsenda blocked a shot from Royals’ centre Damian Cristo and Francis returned it the other way for two points.
“That was a big energy switch for us,” Dunphy said.

Then, with 15 seconds left, Brébeuf forced a turnover under its own basket.

“Those plays were key,” Taylor said. “Joey got a good block. Their big was scoring all game (19 points) but Joey shut him down on that play. We got the ball and closed it off.”

The other top scorer for the Braves was Raef Calura. His first-half outburst – connecting for four, three-point baskets and 16 total points – helped the visitors take a 35-29 lead into the intermission.

“We came out strong,” Taylor said. “We had a big lead, up 15 at one point. But they’re a good team. They fought back.”

The Royals rallied on the strength of three unanswered three-point baskets in the final minute of the first half – including one at the buzzer by Cristo.

Cy Fletcher also tossed in 19 points for Reding while teammate Denzel Johnson added 15 for the Halton Catholic champions.

“I would not have wanted to play another five minutes against those guys,” the Braves coach said. “They’re a good team.”

Dunphy said the berth in OFSAA is an outstanding accomplishment.

“I’m really thrilled,” he said, “especially for the senior players who went through COVID and missed time in their development, perhaps. They continue to do us proud with the way they represent SJB.”

The Brébeuf coach said the Braves have talent to “keep riding this train” and he hopes the hometown OFSAA will benefit his squad.

“We know it’s a big stage. We’ll be loading up the buses so hopefully the kids will get a boost. It will be close enough that we will get some home cooking and a good night sleep.”

After capturing the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic crown by defeating the defending champion St. John Henry Newman Cardinals, the Braves travelled to Burlington and took the GHAC semifinal, 73-64 over the Hayden Huskies.

The last time the Braves won the city championship, in 2019, they were knocked out of GHAC by Bishop Reding.

Brébeuf’s junior boys’ basketball team recently made it to the city final where it dropped a 53-52 decision to the first-place Bishop Ryan Celtics. In novice, the Cathedral Gaels took top honours with a 67-54 win over Newman.

Photos by Bob Butrym, RFB Sport Photography

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