By Jordan Ercit
Kitchener Post staff
The teams are the same, but the faces are not.
Not even close.
For the fourth year in a row, the St. Mary’s Eagles and Resurrection Phoenix clash for the District 8 Athletic Association senior boys basketball championship Friday at the University of Waterloo’s Physical Activities Complex at 8 p.m.
Haven’t been following the league this season? Make sure to pick up a lineup card.
Ten different starters make up the first-place, defending-champion Eagles and the second-place Phoenix. Some of last year’s championship game standouts — Isaac Lance and Alex Thompson for St. Mary’s, John Moi, Mike Pereira and Tyler Schneider for Resurrection — have left the high school ranks. Others have decided to travel a different path.
Former Eagles Adam Voll and Mike Blumel, the 2012 District 8 senior and junior boys MVPs, are playing in Breslau this season at St. John’s-Kilmarnock School. Former Resurrection starters Adam Schneider and Cory Kenning are attending Golden Gate High School in Naples, Fla.
Still, the Eagles have still found a way to soar. They arrive at the University of Waterloo tonight with a perfect 12-0 record and an average margin of victory of almost 40 points in District 8 play following an 84-44 semifinal victory Wednesday over the St. David Celtics. Telloy Simon led the way with 19 points.
And they have done it with a pair of 17-year-olds — Grade 11 guard/forward Simon and Grade 12 forward Tyler Hergott — serving as captains and a starting lineup stocked with Grade 11 students.
Only four players — Simon, Hergott, Avery Sutton and Eric Duong — remain from last year’s team that won the school’s first CWOSSA senior boys basketball title and advanced to the OFSAA Quad-A tournament in Ottawa.
“I was a rookie last year, I couldn’t really say anything,” Simon said. “Having been in Grade 10 last year, I looked up to Alex (Thompson) and all those guys, because I learned from them.
“This year I have a new role. Now I’ve got to be a leader . . . and that’s just different man.”
So far, no one has stepped up as a dominant scoring force for the athletic Eagles, who lack height but capitalize on athleticism for fast-break points.
Seven different players have led the team in scoring this season. Simon, Feden Kidane, Jeremy Cresswell and Nathan Riley have done so more than once.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix, who eliminated third-place St. Benedict 60-39 Wednesday, have just as many new faces.
Head coach Matt Kras, who was at the helm of Resurrection’s 2010 championship win, has stepped in for former coach Tom Schneider. Patric McGlynn, Tyler Bartley and Jacob Gilbert have taken up the bulk of the scoring load with only three returning players on the team.
However, that hasn’t equated into a tight race for the title.
Both games this year have been 30-plus-point blowouts for St. Mary’s, which Kras said has provided motivation for his team.
“They definitely owned us the first two times,” Kras said, noting the Phoenix were battling injuries in their first meeting with the Eagles and then “laid an egg” in the second.
“My guys have great character and they’re coachable, so I’m expecting better execution and focus this time around. Having a one-off at a neutral site also helps. Those situation can go either way.”
There is also the solace that the losing team gets a second shot at the CWOSSA Quad-A tournament. The regional association has added an extra spot for either a District 8 or District 10 (Guelph) team, meaning the second-place Quad-A team from both districts will play off for a spot at CWOSSA.
“That’s nice to have,” Kras said. “But the guys told me yesterday, they want to beat Mary’s.”
That doesn’t seem to bother Hergott too much. Although Hergott said he isn’t taking the Phoenix lightly, he is confident the Eagles will find a way to produce a repeat on Friday.
“Everybody is going to give us a fight,” he said. “But we’re going to come in with a swagger that we’re going to beat everyone that comes in our way.”
Friday’s final also features the Eagles and St. Benedict Saints battling for the junior boys championship at 6 p.m. Admission is $2.
Resurrection’s junior and senior girls volleyball teams have advanced to the District 8 finals on Feb. 19. The Phoenix host the junior championship at 6 p.m., while the seniors will either visit St. Mary’s or host Woodland Christian at 8 p.m.
The seniors swept St. David 25-23, 25-19, 25-17, while the juniors edged Pere-Rene-de-Galinee 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 25-22). St. Mary’s and Woodland Christian played their senior and junior semifinals Thursday.