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Lions set to defend title

By Brian Smiley, Brantford Expositor

<p>Josh Turner of the Assumption Lions senior boys basketball team goes to the hoop during a practice on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at Assumption College in Brantford, Ontario.</p><p>Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/QMI Agency

Josh Turner of the Assumption Lions senior boys basketball team goes to the hoop during a practice on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at Assumption College in Brantford, Ontario.

Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/QMI Agency

The Assumption College Lions may be a bit slow out of the gate this season in the Brant County high school senior boys basketball league -- but they don't expect it to take long before they're firing at full strength.

Assumption, the league's defending champions, will be starting the season a bit behind because several players won't finish football season until Friday.

"That's a concern of the coaches, for sure, but it's a long season and we realize that," ACS coach Mike Petrella said, adding they haven't had the full attention of the entire team yet.

"So, regardless of how slow we start, we want to try to continue to improve and play our best basketball in January and February. That's what our goal is."

At the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, Assumption was certainly at the top of its game. The Lions beat the regular-season champion St. John's College Green Eagles in the Brant County final.

While some people in the basketball community may have seen that win as a bit of an upset, the ACS coaching staff didn't.

"We told the guys this year, it was an upset to all the other (teams and fans) maybe, but to us, we knew that we had the ability to win and the same thing goes this year," said Petrella.

"We know we have the ability to win another championship but at the same time, it's not going to be easy. Now we have a target on our back so we have to come out and be ready to play each and every night and we know if we do that, we'll give ourselves a chance."

Petrella and the rest of the coaching staff - Paul Petrella, Matt Hoo and Mackenzie Milmine - had 20 players try out for this year's team and they kept 12. Of the dozen they kept, nine are returning from a year ago while two are up from the junior program and one is a transfer student from St. Catharines.

"I think we've got a nice team," Petrella said. "We like the mix of guys we've got. We've got some size and we've got some good point guards.

"They all get along and work well together so we're pretty optimistic we'll have a good season."

Four of the nine players back from last year - Andre Toic (guard/forward), Austin Tlustos (guard), Mike King (guard/forward) and Brandon Vincent (forward/centre) - were starters.

Others who are returning are Josh Znidaric (forward), Josh Turner (forward/centre), Mike Heron (guard/forward), Marc Paderon (guard) and Erik Cayaban (guard).

They will be joined by junior graduates Godfrey Napenas (guard) and Jhamal Sewell (guard) and transfer student Chris Reid (forward).

The coaches were hoping to get a look at their team in a couple of pre-season tournaments but had to withdraw from last week's local tip-off tournament and the upcoming Cameron Heights tournament because too many players are still playing football.

When they are able to hit the hardwood, Petrella said he and the coaches have an idea of what they envision.

"Any team that we coach, we always focus on defence," he said. "We look to be a team that tries to create turnovers and push the ball every single second we can.

"We're athletic and quick. They can hit jump shots. We don't have size where guys are going to pound the ball down low. We've got some shooters. We have four or five really nice outside shooters."

Obviously everyone involved with the team is excited to start the season and see what the group can do.

"We're ready to get going," said Petrella. "We're excited. We really like the kids on the team.

"One of the nice things is having a big portion of the guys having played last year with us. It's not going to take us long to get us caught up to where we were."

brian.smiley@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/expbsmiley


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