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Special player-coach relationship powers newly-crowned OFSAA basketball champ
Created On: April 26, 2017
6’ 7” Ashbury senior Noah Kirkwood scored 39 points in his final game as a Colt. Photo: Dan Plouffe

By Phi Trinh

On Mar. 8 in Sault Ste. Marie, Noah Kirkwood capped his career as an Ashbury Colt with a dazzling 39-point final performance to lift his team to an OFSAA ‘AA’ boys’ basketball championship and cement his legacy as one of his school’s all-time best athletes.

“I have known Noah since he was in Grade 6, and I knew he was special from the first time I saw him playing against players 2 or 3 years older than him,” recalls Ashbury coach Ian MacKinnon, whose Colts downed Markham’s Thornlea 76-62 in the gold medal game to complete their perfect record in league play, playoffs and provincials.

“Noah is a once-in-a-lifetime player and he has what it takes to be very good at the next level,” MacKinnon continues. “He was key to our team’s success, but also a great teammate and always played for his team.”

With scholarship offers on the table to many of the NCAA’s top basketball schools, Kirkwood is poised to make a splash well beyond the Ottawa hardwood. He thanks MacKinnon, who drove him to early-morning practice every weekday for the last 4 years, for playing an enormous role in that success.

“I have never really had this close of a relationship with a coach,” underlines Kirkwood, who helped Canada to a 5th-place finish at last summer’s FIBA U17 World Championships in Spain. “He has supported me and helped me through my ups and downs.”

Kirkwood states that his long-term objective in basketball is to play in the NBA.

“I am still very far away from achieving that goal, but I know it just takes hard work and dedication to your craft,” says the 17-year-old who has yet to pick his university destination. “(MacKinnon’s) advice has just been for me to not listen to a lot of the outside noise and make sure this decision is mine. He knows what my goals are and he just reminds me that he is there for me every step of the way.”

Kirkwood is one of nine Colts set to graduate this year with the gold medal they sought after taking silver last year. The team overcame the loss of key players Lloyd Pandi and Liam Niznick for 5-week stretches due to injury to nonetheless post a perfect record in league play, playoffs and provincials.

Rebelles take surprise silver

At the OFSAA ‘A’ Championships in Windsor, it was the Louis-Riel Rebelles making some noise on a Cinderella run that landed them a memorable silver medal.

“For many kids on the team, it was gonna be their last chance to play organized basketball, probably in their life,” highlights Rebelles coach Alex Éthier, a past Louis-Riel/University of Ottawa Gee-Gees player.

“Make sure that when you’re coming out, you play harder than the guy in front of you,” was the simple message he delivered to his troops.

The 7th-seeded Rebelles rode that strong work ethic to vastly exceed expectations, downing opponents from Pickering, North York, #2-ranked Cornwall and #3 Windsor en route to an appearance in the championship game, won by #1 Central Toronto Academy.

“If you win a game, you move on, and that’s what we did from the first playoff all the way to the final,” Éthier adds. “The kids really understood that and they just outworked their opponents.”

In other OFSAA action, All Saints’ Savanna Mouat and Ashbury’s Alex Bui won bronze medals at the Mar. 7-8 swimming provincials in Windsor. And Glebe was the dominant force at the OFSAA nordic championships.

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