The Northern Vikings Senior Boys basketball team continue their strong season, winning the prestigious Silver Fox Invitational tournament in Hamilton earlier this month.
Northern went 4-0 through the tournament, downing Brantford, Notre Dame and the defending champions Saltfleet, before defeating a familiar foe in their Lambton-Kent rivals Ursaline College Chatham (UCC), 60-53.
Northern’s Parker Wyant was named the tournament MVP, while teammates Dawson Winegard and Josh Vozza were chosen as tournament all stars. Josh Manning was selected as the defensive player of the game, while Estabin Galindo took home the sportsmanship award.
Of the 16-team tournament, 12 of the top teams in the province were present.
“It was a strong draw, it’s always strong,” said head coach Chris Jones. “Fifty-one years it’s been running, it’s pretty cool because of the history, because of the people who have participated in it. If you check it out, it reads as a ‘who's who’ of Canadian basketball.”
Northern and UCC have gotten to know each other well this season; UCC defeated Northern early in the season in league play — the only blemish on the Viking’s season record.
The two teams have now met in the finals at back-to-back tournaments, with the Vikings coming out on top both times. Northern defeated UCC 71-64 at the Jacob Ranton Memorial Championship in December.
Jones believes his team's size and passion is what allows them to match up against a UCC team that poses a threat to other teams with their speed and shooting ability.
The two schools have one more league matchup before the start of playoffs — and Jones is expecting UCC to come out hard.
“They have a great coaching staff, they are super well coached and their kids are so talented and so athletic — it will be a great game.”
And there’s a little extra on the line as both teams will be looking to secure home court advantage for the playoffs.
Jones says he has never coached a team like this — while Northern has certainly seen some great teams in the last 15 years, including being ranked 5th in the province last season — there is something different about this year's team.
“It’s not just a confidence thing, it’s how they play,” he said. “They’re talented and they are skilled, but they play on emotion.
“They are playing like the house is on fire every time we are on the court — it’s kind of remarkable really.”
Jones says that normally he would want a measured approach from his players, but has learned to adapt to this team and their play-style.
“It’s incredible as a coach, we always say you can temper the fire, like you can put a little water on the fire and get them settled, but you can’t resurrect a corpse.”
“We don’t want to play on emotion every night,” he added. “It’s too hard… you want to be more measured in your approach, but as coaches we are adapting to them.”
Before they can avenge the earlier regular season loss to UCC, the Vikings will host a tournament of their own, Feb 2 and 3 where Jones says they are excited to host a different UCC team, Upper Canada College out of Toronto.
“They were at OFSAA last year, so that will be a great tournament,”Jones said.
Northern has won four of six tournaments this season and will look to win their 5th at home, before finishing out the regular season against Ursaline College Chatham February 5, in hopes of securing home court for the playoffs as they look to get to OFSAA.