OCAA Men's Championship Basketball begins with an exiting west division showdown between the Lambton Lions and the division champion Redeemer Royals. Redeemer swept the season series between them and the Lions, defeating the program 94-78 at home and 88-77 on the road.
The expectations are high for the Royals coming into this weekend’s tournament, finishing with a regular season record of 19-1. “We approach every game the same way,“ said Royals’ head coach Jamie Girolametto. “We know that all these tournament games will be extremely close, and producing from the foul line is how we will continue to find our success.” The Royals are determined to compete for provincial hardware after participating in last season’s consolation final against the Fanshawe Falcons.
If the program hopes to be successful at this week’s championship tournament, they must continue to rely on the strong play of veteran guard Rayvon Higdon. The 2016-17 OCAA Player of the Year and former CCAA All-Canadian has been outstanding this season for Redeemer, averaging an impressive 21.6 points per game. The native of Rochester, New York has also been lights in both regular season matchups against the Lions, averaging a whopping 29 points per outing.
When asked about his program’s upcoming quarter-final matchup against Lambton, Higdon emphasized the need for execution. “We have to go out there and execute our game,” said Higdon. “It is tough to beat the same team three times in a season, especially against a program like Lambton."
Redeemer clinched their birth to the Final 8 after defeating the east division Loyalist Lancers 88-75 in OCAA crossover action.
After a one year hiatus, the Lambton Lions return to the OCAA Championship as the underdogs in their matchup against Redeemer. “We have often been known as the underdogs,” said Lions’ head coach James Grant. “It’s important that we continue to prepare the same way we have all season, as we have found success in our specific process.” The last time the Lions competed in this tournament, the program was awarded the bronze medal after defeating the Sheridan Bruins 100-73.
If the Lions hope build on their success from the regular season, they will need a strong tournament from 4th year guard Branden Padgett. The native of Detroit, Michigan has been the focal point of the Lions’ thriving offence this season, averaging 23.6 points per game. Padgett knows his programs is in tough against the OCAA West Division Champions, but is confident that his team is up for the challenge. “We embrace the underdog status,” said Padgett. “We are used to being called underdogs in these situations, and this is where we feel most comfortable.”
When asked about the opportunity to play against a player like Higden Thursday afternoon, Padgett emphasized that bragging rights were on the table. “I’ve talked to Higdon a few times over the season," said Padgett. "It will definitely be nice to brag about a win when I see him in Toronto over the summer.”
The Lions booked their spot in this weekend’s tournament after winning their crossover game 83-74 over the Centennial Colts.
Tip off between the two west division rivals is set for 1pm.