TORONTO, Ontario — The best of the best from across the OCAA will take to the court over the weekend to close out 2018 in a big way.
The George Brown Huskies are gearing up to host their annual East vs. West Holiday Series at their Casa Loma campus. Three teams from both the East and West divisions will come to Toronto for the two-day event. There is a total of six games being played on Friday, with each team taking to the court twice. Saturday’s schedule has each team playing a third and final game to cap off the calendar year.
Typically, teams from one division won’t see teams from the other until the playoffs. However, in this event, teams will only face opponents from the other division. It adds a little excitement to the holiday season, and it gives teams a look into what the other division has to offer ahead of the second semester.
This year’s field is packed with talent. The top five teams in the latest OCAA rankings are all taking part in the event. The sixth team is no slouch, as the Centennial Colts make their way to Toronto. You may remember that the Colts were the ones who knocked off the defending champion Seneca Sting in the second game of the season to end the Sting’s lengthy winning streak.
Here’s a look at all six teams in the event and how they have fared during the first semester.
George Brown Huskies (9-1; 1st in OCAA – East)
While there is no champion crowned as a result of the holiday series, the Huskies have to be considered the favourite in each of their three contests over the two-day event as they have the luxury of playing on their home floor. This season, the Huskies are a perfect 5-0 in home games, and all five wins have come by at least 13 points. George Brown has topped the 100-point mark on two occasions in front of their home fans.
At 9-1, the Huskies are the top team in the East Division and are the #2 team in the latest OCAA rankings. Their lone loss came at the hands of Seneca back on November 13th by just three points, 73-70.
George Brown has the luxury of a balanced offensive attack that features four players averaging double-digit points per game through their first 10 contests of the season. Whether it’s in the back court or around the basket and in the paint, the Huskies have players who can hurt you from all over the floor. Guard Liban Mohamed leads the team with an average of 15.4 points per game on 41.1% shooting from the floor. The second-year guard has taken on a starring role with the team this season, and he has the Huskies firing on all cylinders on offense.
Up front, forwards Adam Costanzo (13.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg) and Kingslee D’Silva (11.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg) give the Huskies a formidable tandem in the paint. Both are impact players on both ends of the floor, and their presence inside opens things up on the back-end for the likes of Mohamed and Kevon Guiseppi-Mascoe to hit from long-range.
Seneca Sting (8-2; 2nd in OCAA – East)
The Sting came into the season with a target on their backs for the first time in school history. A perfect season in 2017-18 saw the Sting roll through competition in the OCAA to secure a spot at the CCAA Championships. There, their momentum carried them to their first-ever national championship in men’s basketball. Seneca closed the first half of the season with an 8-2 record to sit second in the East Division behind George Brown, but they have their sights set on the top spot in the second half of the season as they will look to defend their CCAA crown.
Riding the wave of momentum from last year’s title run, the Sting came into the 2018-19 season with their sights set on extending their winning streak even further. However, the Centennial Colts had other ideas, and they put an end to the Sting’s winning streak in just the second game of the regular season. A buzzer-beating three pointer handed the Sting a narrow 72-71 loss on the road.
Still, the Sting rank among the top teams in the conference through the first 10 games of the season. Seneca ranked fourth in the final OCAA rankings before the break, down two spots from the week prior. They have played some impressive basketball despite losing several key contributors from last year’s team and having returnees in different roles than the season before.
Star guard Yusuf Ali transferred to the Ryerson Rams after last season, dealing a blow to the Sting right off the bat. Khalil Miller has come off the bench in eight of his 10 appearances this season, a far cry from his regular spot in the starting five a season ago. Miller and Ali were two of the top players for the Sting last season, and with them in a different spot than they were a year ago, it has shaken things up on offense for Seneca.
On offense, Julio Vazquez is the only player who currently averages double-digit points per game for the Sting. Over seven games, Vazquez is averaging 14.4 points per contest. However, the Sting have relied heavily on their depth this season, as an impressive 12 players have played in at least six games this season and are averaging 5.1 points per game or more.
Centennial Colts (6-4; 4th in OCAA – East)
After the first 10 games of the season, it’s safe to say that the future looks bright for the Centennial Colts moving forward. At 6-4, the Colts sit in fourth place in the East Division, but they have shown that they can hang with the top teams in the division on a nightly basis. They have been a bit inconsistent at times, losing games they shouldn’t and winning games as the underdog. That will come with a younger team, but they have shown that they can handle adversity and are a sleeper team in the OCAA this season.
They began the season with three straight wins, a stretch that included the exciting win over Seneca. Then, four losses over their next five games followed, three of which came by single digit margins. The Colts bounced back to pick up two straight wins to close out the semester with a boost of momentum that has kept them in a playoff spot in the OCAA.
After playing teams in their own division closely, the Colts will test themselves against the top teams in the West Division over the two-day event. Centennial boasts arguably the most underrated tandem in the conference with guards Isaiah Cromwell-Wright and Kyrin Henlin. Both Cromwell-Wright and Henlin are averaging double-digit points per game this season to lead the Colts, and both have a strong two-way game that elevate the team as a whole.
Leading the way on offense is Cromwell-Wright with his 16.3 point per game average. He is also averaging 4.5 rebounds per contest, which ranks third on the team, and a team-high 2.7 assists. In just his first season Henlin has shown that he is a star in the making on the wing for the Colts. He ranks second on the team with an average of 15.1 points per game, while his 6.3 rebounds lead the team. The pair of Cromwell-Wright and Henlin don’t grab as much attention as they probably should on a provincial scale, but that should change come the second half of the season if Centennial is able to pull off another upset or two.
Humber Hawks (9-0; 1st in OCAA – West)
The Humber Hawks have been on quite a roll over the first semester and they are the last unbeaten team in the conference as a result. At 9-0 through their first nine contests, the Hawks have passed each and every test thrown their way in the West Division. Now, they will look to take down three of the top teams from the East Division to firmly assert themselves as the team to beat in the OCAA.
At the conclusion of the fall semester, the Hawks were the top-ranked team in the latest OCAA rankings, and for good reason. Six of their nine wins came by double-digit margins, and while their other three games were decided by just single digits, they came against their top challengers in the division. At the end of the day, wins are wins, and the Hawks have nine of them compared to no losses. Simple math says that’s pretty good.
This year’s edition of the Hawks features several veterans atop the list of offensive and defensive leaders. Five of the top eight scorers on the team this year are in their third year of eligibility or more. Experience wins in college basketball, and Humber is living proof of that this season. Four players are averaging double-digit points per game this season, and eight players are averaging at least 5.0 points per outing.
Atop the list is fourth-year forward Jaylan Morgan. He leads the team with an average of 16.8 points per game on 62.5% shooting from the floor and 55.2% shooting from three-point range. Not far behind, fifth-year guard Curwin Elvis is averaging 13.4 points per game on 54.8% shooting. The veterans have led the team both on and off the court, and the Hawks are flying high as a result. First year guard Kevin Otoo (11.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.4 spg) has given the Hawks another weapon on both ends of the floor, and his emergence bodes well for the future of the team.
Sheridan Bruins (8-3; T-2nd in OCAA – West)
With the league’s most potent offense in tow, the Sheridan Bruins will bring their talents to Casa Loma with their sights set on building momentum ahead of the post-season and asserting themselves as a team to watch in the OCAA throughout the second semester. At 8-3 overall through the fall semester, the Bruins are in a three-way tie for second spot in the West Division. With their offensive firepower, the Bruins are a threat to go on a run at any given point during the year.
Over their first 11 games of the season, the Bruins were held below 80 points just once, an 81-78 loss at the hands of Humber. They have topped 100-points an impressive seven times, and they are 6-1 in those contests. They dropped a 112-109 contest to the Redeemer Royals in what was arguably the best game of the first half of the OCAA season.
Sheridan boasts four players who are averaging double-digit points per game, three of whom pour in more than 19 points per night out. The three-headed monster of Nick Campbell, Jemol Edwards, and Kahleek Bakari-Whyte have been seemingly impossible to stop this season. If one of the three has an off-night, the other two are there to pick up the slack and the offense keeps on humming. When you add in Keenan Danso-Dapaah, the fourth player to average double-digit points per game but doesn’t grab as much attention, Sheridan is a team that can hurt you in many different ways on any given night.
In 11 appearances, all of which have been starts, Campbell has emerged as a front-runner in the race for OCAA Player of the Year. He leads the team with an average of 21.4 points per contest while putting up impressive shooting numbers from all over the floor. Campbell is shooting 52.5% from the floor, 46.5% from beyond the arc, and 71.4% from the free throw line. Edwards (19.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Bakari-Whyte (19.4 ppg, 3.6 apg) give the Bruins three players who are game-changers on both ends of the court.
Fanshawe Falcons (7-3; 5th in OCAA – West)
Rounding out the six-team field in the Holiday Series is a team that could turn some heads and has the capabilities of pulling off an upset or two come the playoffs. The Fanshawe Falcons boast one of the top scorers in the OCAA this season, and they are a half-game back of the logjam for second place in the West Division after their first 10 games of the season.
At 7-3, the Falcons are still within striking distance of the four teams ahead of them in the divisional standings. They are nipping at the heels of the three teams tied for second place in the division after the fall semester, and given how tightly packed the standings are at this point in the year, having that extra game in hand could go a long way for Fanshawe in the second half. All three of their losses have come against teams ahead of them in the standings, and two of them have been by eight points or fewer. The Falcons can hang with the top teams in the conference without question, but they need to find a way to flip the script and come away victorious in the close games.
Leading the way is Chris Parker, one of the purest scorers in the conference. He has recorded double-digit points in each of his nine regular season appearances, and he has a pair of 40-point games to his name to top it all off. He went for 48 points in 39 minutes against the Lambton Lions back on October 24th in the 92-78 win for the Falcons. Parker set the all-time record for points in a game by a Fanshawe player in the process. He followed that up with 40 points in 31 minutes against the St. Clair Saints in November.
Parker’s talents are obvious and he consistently performs on the offensive end of the floor. If Fanshawe wants to make a run at the OCAA title, they will need to see the supporting cast perform at a more consistent level. The likes of Kuek Duol (11.2 ppg, 1.6 apg) and Hanani Ujullu (10.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg) have performed well over the fall term, but the Falcons will rely on their depth moving forwards to provide support for their top three scorers. Eight players in total average more than 5.0 points per game which should give the team confidence moving towards the post-season.
Here is the full schedule for the two-day event, with all games played at the Casa Loma Campus:
Friday, December 28
|Game 1||10am||Humber||George Brown|
|Game 5||6pm||George Brown||Fanshawe|
Saturday, December 29
|Game 9||2pm||Sheridan||George Brown|
– T. Bennett