By Martin Cleary
They came. They tried. They almost conquered.
The National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association sent 15 high school teams to the OFSAA provincial championships in soccer, rugby, baseball and field lacrosse and earned two silver medals and one bronze.
The NCSSAA representatives qualified for two gold-medal finals, but emerged as the second best in their categories. Ottawa narrowly missed having a third team play for an OFSAA championship and settled for a bronze.
Ashbury College had an opportunity to win its first OFSAA boys’ rugby championship, which also would have been the first for the NCSSAA, but the Colts were defeated 28-12 by Crescent of Toronto in the A/AA gold-medal game at Belleville.
Ottawa soccer players filled two-thirds of the podium during the OFSAA boys’ AA soccer championship in Bradford as the Louis-Riel Rebelles won the silver medal and the Gisèle-Lalonde Titan captured the bronze medal.
St. Paul Patriots of Niagara Falls needed only a single goal to turn back Riel 1-0 in the provincial high school final to determine gold and silver.
The OFSAA championship turned into a marathon for Riel as the Rebelles played seven one-hour games plus two overtime periods and one penalty kick session, which equaled more than five full-time 90-minute games in three days.
“Louis-Riel usually is a team that’s technical, tactical and organized,” said head coach Joé Fournier, who watched his team win the school’s second OFSAA boys’ soccer silver medal in nine years.
“We sometimes lacked grit, but they showed another side this year. All the games were hard fought and they showed a lot of grit. We called them warriors.”
Riel has won medals at the last three OFSAA boys’ AA soccer championships – bronze in 2019 and 2022, and silver in 2023.
In the other medal game, the Titan shut out Holy Trinity Tigers 3-0 for the bronze medal. Friedrich Deck-Lalonde scored twice for the Titan and Adbu-Errahman Belacel counted the other goal. Goalkeeper Hugo Bohlen earned his fifth shutout of the championship.
The semifinals saw Riel outscore Holy Trinity 3-2 in a shootout, after the game ended 1-1 in regulation and overtime. Nizar Aboueloumoum had the Rebelles’ goal in regulation time. The Rebelles also needed an extra time goal by Marius Doucet to defeat St. Oscar Romero 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
The Titans lost 2-0 to St. Paul in its semifinal.
Glebe Gryphons reached the consolation final at the OFSAA boys’ AAA rugby championship in Arva, but lost 21-15 and placed sixth as host Medway scored a last-minute try to secure fifth place.
CANADA QUALIFIES FOR 2024 FIBA BOYS’ U17 WORLD CUP
The United States won its eighth consecutive gold medal at the FIBA Americas boys’ U16 basketball championship in Yucatan, Mexico, with a powerful, all-around performance over Canada in the final.
Canada, which equalled its best-ever result with a second-place finish, scored the first five points of the game, but the Americans quickly came alive and were relentless on offence.
The U.S. had a 19-2 run in the first quarter, scored 45 points in that frame and roared to an overwhelming 118-36 victory over Canada.
Both countries along with Argentina and Puerto Rico qualified for the 2024 FIBA U17 World Cup in Turkey.
The silver-medal-winning Canadian team advanced to the final defeating Argentina 65-58 in the semifinals and Mexico 89-63 in the quarterfinals. In the preliminary round, Canada outscored Dominican Republic 63-57, Uruguay 75-65 and Brazil 74-56.
Ottawa’s Godson Okokoh, a six-foot, six-inch forward, played all six games for Canada and averaged 18.4 minutes, 5.0 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. The Royal Crown Academy School student in Toronto also was the youngest on the national team at 14.
Okokoh counted 13 points and added three rebounds against Mexico, eight points and nine rebounds against Dominican Republic and nine points and five rebounds against Uruguay.
The FIBA Americas U16 girls’ championship is scheduled to start Tuesday in Yucatan and Okokoh’s sister Rachael, a six-foot, three-inch forward, is on the Canadian roster. She also attends Royal Crown Academy School.
Canada’s preliminary-round opponents are Brazil, Dominican Republic and Argentina. Ottawa’s Fabienne Blizzard, a co-founder of the Capital Courts Academy, will guide the team in her first role as a national team head coach. She has been an assistant coach for several youth teams in the past.
The top four girls’ U16 teams from the Americas will advance to the 2024 FIBA U17 World Cup in Mexico in July.
VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE OPENS, CANADA RECORDS ONE WIN
The Arena at TD Place rocked with world-class volleyball last week as Canada played its first series of games in the Volleyball Nations League.
Canada is one of six Challenger teams in the league and will play matches this season against 10 Core teams – Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Poland, Serbia and the United States.
The national team started strong with a five-set victory over Cuba 25-21, 26-28, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13.
But its final three matches went the other way in three or four sets.
Canada fell 25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16 to Argentina, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 to the United States and 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21 to Germany. The match against the U.S. was played before a sold-out crowd of 5,419 fans.
National team captain Nicolas Hoag of Gatineau accumulated 34 points in the four matches, the majority of which were attack points.
International league volleyball has been played in Ottawa since 2018 (excluding COVID times) and Hoag is thrilled to have such important matches in front of supportive Canadian fans.
“I love it and I know the whole team loves it, too,” Hoag told Volleyball Canada. “Even the other teams, when they see a crowd like that cheering for everyone else, not just the home team.
“I hope they keep having it in Ottawa. It’s very valuable to us.”
BRONZE MEDAL FOR CANADA AT MEN’S VOLLEYBALL U21 PAN AM CUP
Canada won the bronze medal at the U21 NORCECA Pan American Cup men’s volleyball championship in Havana, Cuba.
In its bronze-medal match, Canada compiled more points off kills (56-35), blocks (10-5) and serves (7-4) to get past Puerto Rico 25-15, 25-21, 21-25, 25-16.
Canada played Puerto Rico in its opening preliminary-round match, but required more than three hours to notch the win 26-28, 27-25, 22-25, 25-19, 19-17.
In its other pool games, Canada defeated Haiti 25-19, 25-17, 25-20 and Dominican Republic 25-17, 25-14, 25-22.
By winning its pool, Canada advanced directly to the semifinals, where it lost 25-17, 25-21, 21-25, 25-16 to defending champion United States.
Brock University freshman Devin Cooney of Kanata saw spot duty in the first two round-round games for Canada.
After a brief second-set appearance against Puerto Rico, Cooney had a few minutes of floor time against Haiti in the first set before playing the entire second and third sets. He had five attacks, three faults and 11 shots against Haiti.
An outside hitter with Brock, Cooney had a strong first year with the Badgers and was named to the OUA and U Sports all-rookie teams. At Brock, he won the Emerging Badger award in men’s volleyball during the annual athletic awards ceremony. In 56 sets from 16 OUA matches, Cooney posted 143 kills, 59 digs and 158.5 points.
SQUASH’S IMAN SHAHEEN WILL REPRESENT CANADA AT SQUASH WORLD JUNIORS
Ottawa’s Iman Shaheen has been named as one of six girls to play for Canada at the world junior squash championships July 18-29 in Melbourne, Australia.
Shaheen will play in the singles draw and has been selected for the team competition along with British Columbia players Spring Ma, Ocean Ma and Maria Min.
“I am extremely grateful to be selected to play in the team event,” said Shaheen, the Canadian junior closed bronze medallist who played in the 2022 world junior women’s individual event.
“Competing again with Team Canada was one of the things I’ve been anticipating all year, after my individuals in Nancy (France) were over. It was a surreal experience last year and I’m very excited to be able to play the team event in Australia.
“This team is amazing: Ocean, Spring and Maria are all fantastic individuals as well as players; they’re extremely talented and hardworking, so I feel lucky to be able to play alongside them in this major event and to deliver a good result for our team.”
HUNT CLUB GOLFERS FERGUSON, SHERIDAN WIN OVGA JUNIOR TITLES
After a standout freshman season at Simon Fraser University, Isabella Ferguson of the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club captured her first Ottawa Valley Golf Association girls’ junior (U19) medal-play championship at Greensmere.
Ferguson fired rounds of three-under-par 69 on the Hylands North course and an even-par 72 at Greenmere for a title-winning, three-under 141 total. Defending champion Lauren Gervais was second at 75-73 for a four-over 148. Gervais was the OVGA girls’ juvenile (U17) champion in 2021 and 2020.
Avery Nordman of the Canadian captured the girls’ juvenile title at 74-78 for an eight-over 152 score. The Hunt’s Amelia McFarlane was runner-up at 78-76-154.
Ben Sheridan of the Hunt and Shane Stanley, a public player from Ottawa, tied at 142, but the former golfer earned the boys’ junior title. Sheridan had rounds of 70-72, while Stanley recorded 18s of 73-69. Sheridan recorded an eagle three on the par 5 18th hole at Greensmere to vault at the top of the scoreboard.
Defending boys’ junior champion Max Corcoran was third at 74-73 for a three-over 147.
Brode Stephen of Cataraqui was the boys’ juvenile winner, a two-over 75-71-146, while Atlas Ibit of Greyhawk took second, a six-over 78-72-150.
DOUBLE-DIGIT PODIUMS FOR OTTAWA AT RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS PROVINCIALS
A total of 10 local athletes won individual medals at the June 9-11 Ontario Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Markham.
A pair of athletes from the Ottawa Rhythmic Gymnastics Club were crowned provincial champs – Ellisif Fredrika Stephenson in Level 3A (Age 9-11) and Vlada Coveny in Level 6C (Age 16+).
Earning second-place finishes were Barrhaven’s Amber Kwan (L3A, A9-12), Ottawa’s Shiyi (Mia) Cui (L5A, A13-15), Mackenzie Hao (L6A, A16+) and Elizabeth Sklokin (L6B, A16+).
And taking bronze were Kanata’s Fiona Tong (L5B, A13-15) and Phoenix Wang (L6B, A16+), Ottawa’s Claire Sun (L5C, A13-15)) and Pirouette’s Caroline Wang (L6C, A16+).
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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