The Tillsonburg Gemini junior boys basketball team won ‘big’ in IDCI’s little gym.
“One of those games where size makes a difference,” said coach Mike Demaree following a 58-38 Thames Valley Regional Athletics South East championship victory over Aylmer East Elgin Wednesday afternoon in Ingersoll. “Especially defensively.”
Gemini guard Steven Gilvesy paced all scorers with a ‘big’ 25-point performance including 10 in the first quarter. Tillsonburg opened with an 18-8 advantage, establishing a double-digit lead it would not relinquish for the duration. Gilvesy also had a pair of ‘big’ buckets in the third quarter, answering as the Eagles attempted to battle back into the contest. Notable were a one-handed cross-key runner out of the corner after he hustled down a tipped pass deep in the East Elgin zone; along with a smooth trey with 1:01 remaining on an assist to Kieran Rangel who pulled down a long-range offensive rebound off a Jack Demaree three-point miss.
But the cozy confines of IDCI’s gym dictated close-quarter action under the basket as a defining factor. A distinct Tillsonburg size advantage translated on the boards at both ends of the court, as well as choking off Eagles’ offensive opportunities. Demaree showed some man-to-man mixed in with fullcourt 2-2-1 pressure, but went with a 1-3-1 trapping zone defence for the majority of the contest.
“We got a lot of turnovers off of it,” he said, noting his comparatively ‘big’ guys clogged up a smaller court effectively, plugging up the middle, helping out and limiting effective operation of the Eagles’ halfcourt offence.
“We covered everything pretty good,” Demaree added. “There wasn’t a lot of space.”
The effort was definitely a team one, but Gemini Henry Vandenbroeck and Kieran Rangel were on the front lines, down in the trenches under both hoops.
“They were aggressive defensively,” Demaree credited. “Got all kinds of rebounds – and Kieran especially had a lot of offensive rebounds and putbacks.”
“Big guys on the boards, you’ve just got to box them out and the rebound is yours, that’s it,” said Rangel, who contributed 10 points to rank second in Gemini scoring.
“I usually get a couple, but I guess the boards were there tonight and the points came along with them.”
Vandenbroeck, chipping in six points on slashing drives down the baseline and a pair of free throws, actually prepares a larger venue.
“But you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got,” said the Gemini forward, who doesn’t mind a physical game in the least. “It’s a little more fun, it’s not fun if there’s no aggression.”
Tillsonburg extended its lead to 17 by halftime (33-16), held off an Eagles charge with a 10-9 advantage in the third and then closed out the South East championship victory by a two-point (15-13) margin through the final eight minutes. Ben Demaree battled inside with seven points, his cousin Jack contributed five and Trent Sinden three. Cooper Vloandouen had 15 for the Eagles, Tim Novephesy added 11 and Dalton Wall nine.
Both teams had qualified for WOSSAA prior to the opening whistle, East Elgin at the AAA event in London Clarke Road; the Gemini at St. Thomas Central Elgin Friday for the four-team AA draw.
“We wanted to go in with a win,” said Rangel. “Just gives us like a confidence booster going in.”
Demaree said Tillsonburg will open with a morning semi-final against the winner of Wednesday’s qualifier between Stratford Northwestern and Stratford St. Mike’s. The Gemini beat Northwestern by around 20 earlier in the season, and have seen St. Mike’s play, but not faced them. Head-to-head, St. Mike’s has won both regular season meetings, says Demaree.
The other bracket sees Woodstock CI up against the winner of St. Thomas St. Joe’s and London South. The Gemini were undefeated in league play including WCI, and while they have not played St. Joe’s, Demaree has seen them in action, calling them a strong squad.
“They’re good,” he credited. “That’s a team I’m looking forward to playing if we’re lucky enough to get through to the final.”
Wednesday’s victory was Tillsonburg’s 19th in a row, running the overall Gemini record to 23-2 on the season. The squad’s shared goal heading into the campaign was to win its last game, a target standing two days and two games away.
“Of course – who doesn’t want to win?” Vandenbroeck responded.
“Whatever we’ve been doing is working,” Rangel added. “Let’s just keep on doing it.”
“WOSSAA is where we want it to go,” Demaree concluded. “If we win two more games, that’s what we get.”
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