By Martin Cleary
West Carleton Secondary School boys’ senior basketball coach Jayson Saikaley is all about the team approach to the game, which he’s viewed from the sidelines for the past dozen years.
He likes to use a simple example to explain to his players how working together is the best option for success.
Saikaley will stand in front of one of his players and hold up a hand with his fingers spread apart. He’ll tap the player’s chest with his fingers and ask him if it hurt. The player will say no.
Drawing his fingers together to form a fist, he asked the player, if he hit him in the chest now, would that hurt. The player would smile and say yes. Point made.
Fingers coming together, just like players working as one on a basketball court, can have a big impact. Saikaley detests playing Iso (isolation) basketball, where the offensive player goes one-on-one with a defensive player to try to score by himself.
During his four years rebuilding the West Carleton Wolves basketball program – after the departure of star player Corey Johnson, who spent four years at Harvard University and played for the Crimson – Saikaley has taught his players how to be successful. And they learned to execute his plan well.
Two weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic struck Ottawa and postponed high school sports in March, 2020, the Wolves produced an undefeated regular and playoff junior season. Their 12th win gave the Wolves the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association boys’ junior championship with a 79-61 win over Gisèle-Lalonde.
Saikaley was anticipating a strong run with the senior team in 2020-21, but that never happened because of the pandemic. As a result, he lost a number of key players to graduation, but he had a core of three talented student/athletes (Arhaan Awati, Jaideep Grewal and Joseph Ayele), who also knew each other as community club players, for the anticipated 2021-22 season.
When the 2022 winter sports program opened, but without the lure of the OFSAA provincial high school championships, the NCSSAA took a different approach that just may stick in the future. The 49 high school teams were divided into seven geographical groupings. Each team played six regular-season games before they had two overlap games and were placed in eight divisions, which would play for eight city championships.
West Carleton finished second in the West 1 division at 5-1, while St. Pius X was first at 6-0. After losing an overlap game to St. Pius 65-58 and forfeiting its game with Longfields-Davidson Heights because they only had five healthy players, West Carleton played in the Diamond Division (top level) playoffs.
The Wolves were at their team-playing best, turning back Lester B. Pearson 73-67 in the quarterfinals, highly-favoured Ashbury 57-49 in an epic semifinal and Longfields-Davidson Heights 64-55 in the final.
Throughout the playoffs, especially at key moments, Saikaley watched his players execute team play to perfection with every player involved in the passing game. Dribbling was secondary to their quick and effective passing game.
“It was a great season,” Saikaley said in a recent phone interview. “I was pleasantly surprised. But I also knew we had a championship pedigree. We were champs and we needed to defend. We needed to act like champs.”
The players also learned to trust each other during the season as they developed their team game.
“Basketball has turned into one-on-one lately. I didn’t let them. My biggest battle this season was to bring in the team concept,” he explained. “We lost two times to the same team (St. Pius) and they were Iso teams. We got sucked into their play.
“I said to them those losses were the best thing that could happen. We don’t have the depth for Iso ball. Our guys have become a team. Everyone touches the ball. I finally had them on board.”
Besides the team play, there were other factors that allowed the Dunrobin secondary school to win its second NCSSAA championship in three years.
“We had chemistry and endurance. They could run all day long. And the other kids stepped up. There were lots of unsung players. The players stepped up when they had to. I was proud of what they did. I knew I had three top players, but you don’t win anything with three players.”
If there was a Diamond Division trophy large enough to have the team names inscribed on it, here’s what would appear: Abdulrahman Awad, Ahmed El-Hamad, Alex Strathern, Arhaan Awati, Cody Brown, Egal Osman, Gerrit Beimers, Jaden Ehoro, Jaideep Grewal, Joseph Ayele, Mohamed Dirar, Sammy Perkins, Yancheng Qiu; coaches Jayson Saikaley, Marybeth Makhoul, Ravdeep Grewal.
LUCA NICOLETTI SPRINTS TO THREE TRACK VICTORIES
The two-day National Capital High School Classic concluded the pre-season track and field meets last week for the runners, jumpers and throwers. Now, it’s time for the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association conference championships with the West athletes competing Wednesday and the East competitors going Thursday.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the National Capital High School Classic meet.
On Day 1, Luca Nicoletti of Paul-Desmarais led the charge with three wins. He used his sprint speed to win the boys’ senior 200 metres (22.31 seconds), the 110-metre hurdles (15.05) and the 400-metre hurdles (56.85). Here are the double winners:
· Nolan Legare, John McCrae, boys’ senior, 400 metres (50.95), 800 metres (2:08.40), second place in the open 2,000-metre steeplechase (7:02.06).
· Kyle Porter, Sir Robert Borden, boys’ senior, 1,500 metres (4:17.43), 3,000 metres (9:22.65).
· William Sanders, St. Mother Teresa, boys’ junior 400 metres (53.18), 800 metres (2:12.48), second in 1,500 metres (4:30.45).
· Jahim Gauthier, Louis-Riel, boys’ junior, 100 metres (11.78), 200 metres (24.07).
· Will Batley, West Carleton, boys’ novice, 100 metres (11.94), 200 metres (24.27).
· Timeo Atonfo, Gisèle-Lalonde, boys’ novice, 100-metre hurdles (16.22), long jump (6.14 metres), second in 100 metres (11.96).
· Louise Stonham, Arnprior, girls’ senior, open 3,000 metres (10:38.38), open 2,000-metre steeplechase (7:25.40).
· Grace Munro, West Carleton, girls’ senior, 400 metres (1:01.42), 800 metres (2:29.55).
· Charlotte Murchison, St. Mother Teresa, girls’ senior, 100 metres (13.10), 200 metres (26.89).
· Danica Mulvihill, Louis-Riel, girls’ junior, 100 metres (13.32), 80-metre hurdles (13.86).
· Koree Yach, Arnprior, girls’ junior, 800 metres (2:28.10), 300-metre hurdles (50.52).
· Waverley Lyons, Glebe, girls’ novice, 400 metres (1:06.31),1,500 metres (5:58.45).
On Day 2, Amelia Van Brabant of Earl of March and Preston Schwarz of Ashbury broke meet records.
Van Brabant won the girls’ senior 1,500 metres in 4:39.42, which broke the old mark held by All Saints’ Sarah Boyd at 4:43.59 in 2009.
Schwarz set the new standard in the boys’ novice 200 metres, when he ran 23.54 and erased the former mark of 23.78, which was established in 2012 by Liam Smith of St. Mary. He almost set a second record in the 100 metres with a winning time of 11.72. The record remains at 11.6 and is held by Doron Williams from 2008.
Carlyn Brunette of Pembroke’s Bishop Smith was a triple winner in the girls’ junior division – 200 metres (28.94), 100 metres, (13.94) and long jump (4.35 metres). In the girls’ senior class, Merivale’s Audrey Goddard scored wins in the 100-metre hurdles (15.05), 400-metre hurdles (1:11.35) and high jump (1.50 metres).
Immaculata’s Connor Fraser dominated the boys’ senior throwing events, winning the javelin (42.92 metres), discus (45.00 metres) and shot put (12.76 metres).
Here are the double winners:
· Grace Streek, Merivale, girls’ novice, 1500 metres (5:10.77), open 3,000 metres (11:10.85).
· Lecia Patrick, Ashbury, girls’ novice, 200 metres (28.10), long jump, (4.80 metres).
· Laura Cross, Merivale, girls’ senior, 400 metres (1:03.33), 200 metres (27.56).
· Charlotte Murchison, St. Mother Teresa, girls’ senior, long jump (4.91 metres), 100 metres (13.30).
· Malachi Kenny, Bishop Smith, boys’ novice, 400 metres (53.57), open 3,000 metres (9:52.48).
· Brendan Jantzi, Merivale, boys’ junior, 100-metre hurdles (19.67), javelin (33.51 metres).
· Adriano Padoin-Castillo, Immaculata, boys’ senior, open 2,000-metre steeplechase (6:52.19), 800 metres (2:11.47).
· Christian Fadael, Franco-Cité, boys’ senior, 200 metres (24.46), 100 metres (12.02).
· Quentin Heredia, Gloucester, boys’ senior, long jump (5.92 metres), high jump (1.70 metres).
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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