By Kyle Reid
The Celtics under-14 boys team capped off a big year with a second place finish at the inaugural Junior NBA World Regional Qualifiers this year.
The group has been playing together for some time in the Mount Pearl Minor Basketball Association system, boasting many successful wins at the provincial level. And this year was no different. A win at club provincials this past season qualified the team for the Junior NBA tournament held in Halifax. The success this season didn’t come as a surprise to the players’ coaches.
“We knew that we were the team to beat going in (to the season),” said Assistant Coach Cameron Tobin, whose younger brother, Mark, plays on the team. “We knew with the talent that we had our job was going to be pretty easy.”
That doesn’t mean it’s been an easy year for the young team of hoopsters. It’s been a spirit of grit and determination that’s buoyed them to a successful season.
“The group is a really resilient group,” said Tobin “We got beat a couple of times this year by teams that we shouldn’t have (lost to) but we bounced back well.”
This year the highly regarded Mount Pearl team won the club provincial championships in Pasadena, the Winter Games in Deer Lake and, most recently, placed second in the Halifax tournament where the boys took on the top club teams from across Atlantic Canada. It may not have been an ideal finish, but the players certainly had reason to hold their heads high after contending with their stiffest test of the season.
“(We) always perform well under pressure,” said Celtics junior NBA qualifier tournament leading scorer Mark Toraville. “We gave it our all against a skilled team in Halifax, it was a great experience.”
Toraville said the boys and their parents were proud of the team’s success this season and are looking forward to improving some things heading into the next season. It’s a sentiment echoed by their coaching crew as well
“They were proud of the way they played,” said Tobin, noting the boys were only down by two points at half-time in the championship game. “We knew going in that we were going to have a tough game…they played really well.”
All but one of the players will be moving on to O’Donel High to play high school basketball next season, a promising development that should ensure the Patriots will be a force to reckon with in the coming years.
“And the one who isn’t going to O’Donel is considering moving to Southlands,” said Tobin, laughing.
Tobin, a Mount Pearl Minor Basketball Association graduate who coaches alongside his father Wally, will be leaving the province to attend college in the fall and will not be returning to coach the group next season. However, he said it was an honour to guide such a talented and hard working group of young players.
“They’re a great group,” said Tobin. “Success feels great, but they haven’t let it get to their heads. They came out and worked hard in practice every day.”