By Brandi Awad
The Gloucester Wolverines Under-16 boys basketball team is the latest Ottawa basketball team to help bolster the city’s reputation as a basketball hotbed.
The Wolverines captured the top championship in the Ontario Basketball League last month with a 68-63 victory over the Mississauga Monarchs at the provincial championships held in Ottawa May 11-13.
The championship win comes 20 years from when they last won the league’s top title, and after taking home Division 1 bronze last year, the Wolverines were hungry for gold.
“We’ve always been a pretty good team the past couple of years, but there was something different about this year’s team,” team manager, David Gauthier said. “A lot of new talent was added to the team, so optimism was high.”
Heading into one of their first local tournaments of the season, the Chris Paulin Tournament, the Wolverines had high hopes. In past years they’ve done extremely well at this event, so they expected to repeat that success. Instead, they under-performed and left with second thoughts about the season ahead.
“We started wondering are these kids going to be as good as we thought?” Gauthier explained. “We started having a bit of doubts.”
However, those doubts subsided during the regular season with the Wolverines rolling to an undefeated 9-0 record.
The first test on their path to a provincial championship was an elimination game against the same team that bounced them from championship contention last year – the Etobicoke Thunder.
The boys wouldn’t let history repeat itself, turning around a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the game to avenge their loss from last year.
“The coach just found something different this year… He found the kids that were just willing to kill themselves for the ball, dive for the ball, the kids that really wanted it,” Gauthier said.
The Wolverines would win all three round-robin games at the provincial championship tournament to clinch 1st place and secure a finals matchup against Mississauga.
In front of a large crowd where the noise was “deafening,” the two teams traded baskets throughout the game. The Wolverines held a steady lead through the game’s first half before stifling a Mississauga comeback in the second to eventually claim the provincial crown.
“It’s hard to describe in words, but it was just so much joy… Everyone was so happy,” Gauthier described. “When we won – just the relief, the hugs, the emotions… The janitors actually had to kick us out of that gym because we just didn’t want to leave.”
He added: “This wasn’t just a one game thing. For some of these kids, coach Darren had been with them since atom and three of those boys have been together since then, playing together forever and coming close.”
And as Gauthier explained, this win is not only important for the Wolverines, but for the city as a whole.
““If we do well, it just helps brings up Ottawa basketball,” he said. “It gives notoriety – it’s like ‘oh lets not forget Ottawa’.”