THUNDER BAY – The Hammarskjold Vikings are Tiger Tip-Off champions.
Carter Pare had a game-high 22 points on Friday evening and keyed the Vikings third-quarter charge that allowed them to pull away for good after the host Westgate Tigers opened the second half with three straight steals that led to three straight baskets, cutting Hammarskjold’s lead to just two points.
Pare had nine of 11 points as the Vikings went on an 11-2 run to close out the period, giving Hammarskjold a 49-35 cushion entering the fourth and said the 59-48 win in the Tiger-Tip off’s senior boys championship was a great way to get set to start SSSAA regular-season play next week.
“It’s a good feeling. We worked hard and pushed the break. It was a good win. It feels good,” Pare said. “We just got it inside, played hard, played good defence and pushed the break.”
Teammate Luke Foulds, a force on the boards at both ends of the Westgate gymnasium, put up 14 points and said the win only happened because the Vikings came together as a team and didn’t let the pressure get to them after the break.
“And we got carried by CP3 (Pare) over there. We managed to get into the final and we all turned up,” he said.
“They’ve got some good players, but we just slowed it down and did what we do best in the paint, like driving to the net. (This win) gives us massive confidence. The next step is beating Iggy.”
St. Ignatius, the behemoth in the SSSAA league, winning every senior title since 2015, sat out the Tiger Tip-Off.
It was a chance for both Hammarskjold, who last won a title in 2007, and Westgate, who last lifted the trophy in 2009, to shake off any rust and hit the ground running when the games start to count on Monday.
Vikings coach Ryan Sutherland said winning leads to more winning. Facing adversity also helps build character.
“That was a tough, physical game. Both teams played really well. For our guys to recover from some moments of panicked play, we gained a little more composure by the end and It’s a good learning experience for them. We’re playing some guys that didn’t receive a whole lot of playing time last year, so we’re going through a good learning curve,” Sutherland said.
The Vikings leapt out to a 16-8 lead after one, and led by as many as 16 in the second, Pare hitting a pair of free throws three minutes into the period to make it 28-12.
There was no quit in the Tigers, who closed the gap to eight by halftime, Gabe Van Reenan hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it 32-24.
Thomas Baker opened the third with a steal and a bucket, and second later Connor Psikla benefited from another Westgate steal, the hoop making it 32-28. The Tigers weren’t done and Baker forced yet another turnover, feeding Psikla for a third straight Westgate bucket.
It’s as close as the home team would get. Psikla hit a three-pointer in the fourth that cut the Vikings lead from 11 to eight, but Forrester Yaschuk dashed all hopes of a comeback bid, hitting from distance to make it 58-46.
St. Ignatius captured the junior title, downing Westgate 67-43 earlier in the day.