TBy Jackson Heil ’17
The journey to the C.H.S.A.A. boys basketball championship game for the Chaminade Flyers began the minute the final whistle blew in last year’s semifinal matchup. After the Flyers fell to rival St. Anthony’s in a stunning defeat, head coach Mr. Robert Paul ’92 and the senior class, along with the rest of the incoming 2016-2017 squad, set out on a mission to ensure they wouldn’t endure the same heartbreak.
On Tuesday, February 28, exactly a year following last season’s termination, the team’s goal was realized in flying colors at Hofstra University in its convincing championship victory over the Holy Trinity Titans.
After soaring past St. Anthony’s two days prior in a brilliant defensive display by Coach Paul’s squad, the Flyers understood they would have to perform even better on both ends of the floor if they wanted to outlast a skilled Holy Trinity team that possessed an assortment of offensive weapons, as well as athleticism on the defensive side of the ball. That’s exactly what happened, as the Flyers dominated from start to finish, defeating the Titans 85-65.
Junior Brendan McGuire, who was named playoff’s MVP after the game, was instrumental in the team’s triumph, pouring in 18 points while adding 6 helpers in the victory. Although it was a team effort in holding the Titans to 65 points, the forward was vital in containing Trinity guard Cameron Wynter, who burned the Flyers for 37 points in the last meeting between the two sides, to just 14 points this time around.
“Although Brendan’s size makes him seem like a big man, his skill set is why we like him on the perimeter,” Coach Paul said of his versatile forward. “We liked his lankiness and athleticism to keep Wynter to the outside, while also having the size to contest shots.”
The Flyers hot start beyond the arc made it nearly impossible for Holy Trinity to climb back into the Tuesday night affair. Five first quarter triples saw the Flyers ahead by 12 points after one period of play. The Titans would rally towards the end of the first half to cut the deficit to single digits, but Chaminade would strike right back, stretching the lead to nine by halftime. The Flyers maintained control in the third quarter, and pounced on the Titans in the final quarter, putting 25 points on the board to cap the dominating performance.
Although Bobby Connors ’18 (20 points) and freshman point guard Michael O’Connell (17 points) were monumental in the team’s victorious effort, it was the leadership of a once inexperienced group of seniors that guided the Flyers through adversity, not only in the finals, but also following two overtime defeats at the end of the regular season.
“The two losses were a wake up call for us and it made us work a lot harder than we had all season,” senior Regan Quinn remarked following the victory. “We all had the same goal which was to win the championship and no one was getting in the way of that.”
The victory marks the third time in five seasons in which the Flyers have been crowned champions of the Catholic League. When asked about how this team compares to his great teams in the past, Paul emphasized the 2017 unit’s ability to adjust to hardships faced throughout the year and lead despite a lack of experience on several fronts.
The Flyers will head up to Buffalo on Friday ahead of Saturday’s C.H.S.A.A. State semifinal matchup with Canisius High School. Familiar foes of Chaminade, the Crusaders fell to the Flyers in the New York State Championship of soccer this past November. On Saturday, with the early March breezes whistling in upstate New York, the Flyers on the court will look to take a stride toward the ever-coveted state title.