SACKVILLE, N.B. – They may have come up short in their first outing of the season, but Matt Kaye, head coach of the Tantramar Titans junior varsity boys basketball squad, feels his team will provide opponents with serious competition this season.
The Titans fell 69-52 to the Mathieu-Martin Matadors in last Monday’s away game, but Kaye said the scoreboard didn't tell the whole story, as the Titans struggled in the first half, allowing the hosts to pull well ahead, before rallying in the second half.
“They did lose and we didn’t have the greatest first half but they really picked it up. In the first half they weren’t hitting a lot of shots, but in the second half they started hitting shots, they came together more and moved the ball around better.”
Kaye noted the Titans are a AA squad, while the Matadors play at the AAA level.
This season’s junior varsity boys will also be led by assistant coaches Alan Atkinson, Austin Carter and Frank Oulton, while Rob Lyon, head coach of the varsity Titans, will also help in overseeing the players’ development.
The Titan squad boasts a lot of rookie talent, with seven players in Grade 9 – Josh Weinberg-Fillmore, Bergen Fraser, Ethan Cormier, Ethan Doherty, Jacob Senior, Sebastian Kelly-Ayer and Sam Corrigan – while Grade 10 students Ethan Allen and Hunter Nantel, and Grade 11 students Thomas Allen, Trevor Dulenty and Kayden Broughm round out the roster.
Weinberg-Fillmore led the team in scoring in last Monday night’s outing with 15 points, followed by Thomas Allen with 11 points. Also getting on the scoreboard for the Titans were Ethan Allen with six points, Dulenty with five, Fraser, Doherty and Senior with four apiece, Nantel with two and Cormier with one.
The wealth of rookies on the team doesn't concern Lyon, as they’ve already gained experience at a higher level.
“The last couple of years we’ve started reaching out to the bantam players and brought them up for a couple of practices (with the varsity team), a bunch of our guys work out at the Mount A gym and would work with them and the Mount A guys were coming to our practices last year. So we’re trying to build more of a program, a community of basketball.”
Both Kaye and Lyon agree Weinberg-Fillmore will be looked upon as a leader due to the amount of time he’s already spent working with the high school players over the past several months. The coaches also expect Fraser and Thomas Allen to help lead the charge.
Reintroducing the junior varsity program at the local high school this season after many years without it is expected to pay dividends in the long run. Prior to this year, players moving up from the bantam level would play midget, but Lyon said it was always hard to find games at that level, meaning players would not get as much experience as they needed before moving up to the varsity level.
“Any other successful programs – Woodstock, Rothesay – all have JV teams, as well, so it’s just a feeder system.”
And the increased focus on basketball development in the Tantramar region seems to be paying off, Lyon said. Two years ago, 15 guys tried out for the (varsity) team, and this year 35 went out for the team.
“We’re generating more excitement, more people are interested in basketball and realizing they can compete at a higher level. If we want to compete with the other schools, we have to do that.”
Another key ingredient in any team’s success is fan support, Lyon said, adding he hopes area residents will come out and support the basketball programs.
“As a player, you know when it’s packed and loud, and it feels great. It really makes you play harder.”
Editor’s note: The JV Titans put in a strong showing Monday evening when they played host to Rexton’s Bonar Law Bengals, with the Sackville squad coming out on top 68-40.