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Impact to host Ontario Basketball bantam championship tournament

April 25, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Mike Chapman probably understands his players’ situation a lot better than they realize.

A softball player in his youth, Chapman played for Kingston Township teams that routinely got clobbered by teams from Napanee.

“It was just excruciating to go to Napanee,” he recalled. “They’d beat us by 25 runs. It was a very intimidating place to play. They really felt like they were older than us. They were playing at a whole different level than we were.”

That’s because those Napanee midget and junior clubs, without a lot of teams in the area of their own age group, would play in men’s leagues. They’d routinely get beaten but when it came time to play among their peers, what they’d learned against better competition was plain to see. It’s a formula that has made Napanee a perennial provincial power.

Chapman’s minor bantam Kingston Impact basketball team has experienced the phenomenon. With not a lot of under-13 clubs to play in eastern Ontario, the Impact has often found itself competing with players a year their senior. That’s perhaps no small part of their 3-12 record this year in Ontario Basketball-sanctioned play.

Perhaps the wisdom gained from playing those more experienced — not to mention taller, stronger, more familiar with sophisticated concepts — players will stand the Impact in good stead this weekend, when they play for the provincial championship.

The local organization is hosting the massive 102-team, 13-division competition, starting Friday afternoon.

After his team’s final pre-tournament practice Thursday night at Kingston Collegiate, Chapman said his team has done well this year, notwithstanding the 3-12 log. “It’s been a tough season that way but you know what? They’ve played well,” he said. “They were competitive and they work hard.”

“It’s a bit of a challenge for us because we’re a Grade 7 team and there’s not a lot of teams in (eastern Ontario) so you’re often playing Grade 7-8 teams, and even (small) centres like Perth, a Grade 8 guy is a whole different player than a Grade 7 guy. They’ve gone through puberty.

“If we were in southwestern Ontario, where there are probably 15 Grade 7 teams, we probably would have been just fine. When we went to tournaments where we could play Grade 7 teams that were in our division, we did well.”

An exception was a tournament in Hamilton where Kingston, an A class team, found itself in a pool with some strong AA teams. “We got put in the wrong division and we got murdered,” Chapman said. “That’s the way things go, sometimes, but we always come back from something like that.”

After that tournament, for instance, the Impact played a team from Elgin for the fourth time this year. The first three meetings were split, all with close scores. “Every game was within two points,” Chapman said. “We came back (from Hamilton) and beat them by 27 or 28 points.”

“It’s interesting. It just shows you that when a team pushes you out of that comfort level for a while … when you come back, you play a lot better.

“(The players) don’t know it yet but I think this is a really good thing for them next year.”

Chapman hopes it’s a good thing for this weekend, too. Ontario Basketball ranks teams on the basis of their performance and the quality of their competition at tournaments throughout the winter. The Impact finds itself in an eight-team grouping that will play all its games at Frontenac Secondary School.

Kingston’s first game will be at 9 p.m. against the Oakville Venom. Teams from Burlington, Mississauga, Guelph, London, Oxford and Milford complete the Division 10 draw.

The highlight of the Impact’s season so far has been a bronze-medal performance at a tournament at Newmarket, winning the third-place game against a team to which it had suffered a 10-point defeat the previous day. “We had a great tournament there,” Chapman said.

“When they’ve been in their element they’ve done really well. It’s a good bunch of kids, really easy to coach.”

Chapman expects the team from Burlington to present the toughest challenge. “There’s a couple of real tough teams in there but I expect us to be competitive with the rest of the teams and to give them a real good run.”

To that end, the Impact has had a busy April. This weekend’s event will be the team’s third tournament this month.

“I’m hoping that helps these guys,” Chapman said. “A lot of people have a lull in April, waiting for the OBAs to come. We’ve been coming in hard. We wanted to make sure to have them tournament ready.”

Finals in all divisions are scheduled for Sunday. The Division 1 tournament will played in the Queen’s University Athletics and Recreation Centre, where Chapman said spectators will be amazed at the calibre of play.

“It’s incredible how strong they will be. It will blow you away,” he said. “These are kids who are going to the American side to play university ball some day.”

Games will be played at eight city high schools — Bayridge, Frontenac, Holy Cross, Loyalist, Queen Elizabeth, Kingston, Regiopolis Notre Dame and La Salle — Queen’s, St. Lawrence College and Sir John A. Macdonald Public School.

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