By Melissa Novacaska
The Gloucester Wolverines’ top men’s team won their second consecutive provincial title at this year’s Ontario Basketball Provincial Championships. The championships, which took place in Toronto from May 31 to June 2, were capped off with Gloucester Cumberland Basketball Association’s U17 (GCBA) men’s team claiming 1st place with a 62-48 win over Wellington’s Flamborough Fire in the gold medal game.
The team won the equivalent to the provincial crown last year in the U16 division by beating the Mississauga Monarchs 68-63. That title was historic, as the team’s manager David Gauthier put it, as it was the Wolverines’ first ever provincial championship. It was even more special for the team’s core, many who had played together for years.
But this year’s team reached even greater heights.
Nine players out of the team’s roster of 12 were returnees from the 2018 squad. The U17 Wolverines added three new players, but it was returning teammates Isaiah Pemberton and Sacha Gauthier, who have played together for the better part of a decade, who led the team in scoring.
One of the players who is a rookie to the team this year is Mikael-Benedict Worku. Worku, who plays centre, said the provincial championship was “a little overwhelming.”
“It was a very a good experience with the guys. The win [included] effort the entire way,” Worku said. “I think overall it was relief because we put a lot of time and effort into our season and to come out on top felt pretty nice.”
Worku says basketball has had a way of helping him through difficult times in his past. Going into the championships he had one thought: “To make a statement.”
“We have to show that Ottawa can play ball, and we proved that, that weekend,” Worku said.
The Wolverines’ leadup to the championship was intense, according to the big man, but that benefited his team in the long-run.
A difference between this year’s championships and last is the new structure of the Ontario Basketball Association’s finals.
Until this year, all championships were played under the Ontario Cup umbrella, which included division 1 and beyond.
This season, elite teams – such as the U17 Wolverines – competed for their age group’s official Provincial Championship, while others compete for tiered Ontario Cups.
Despite feeling as though his team was the favourite heading into this year’s provincials, Gauthier still had the nerves watching the finals game.
Throughout the provincial championships the Wolverines were repeatedly ahead of their opponents, which wasn’t the case in the gold medal matchup.
“This game the other team came out shooting very hot. They held it for most of the first two quarters and then we had the lead at the half and then kind of took control,” Gauthier said. “It was a bit nerve racking wondering if it’s going to slip away, but the kids played really tough defence and [there was desire and] the kids were just diving after the ball and just really wanted it.”
Pemberton said that although last year’s win was more emotional because the title was their first, this season’s was still satisfying.
“This year was nice to be able to defend our crown,” Pemberton said.
The team’s scoring was balanced at provincials, with Gauthier saying the height of his team, which features players as tall as 6-foot-9, gave them an advantage.
The Wolverines finished their season with an overall record of 29-5.
Before they wrap up their year, the Wolverines will compete in a final series of games at the St. Laurent Express Tournament in Montreal at the end of June.