If Oakwood Collegiate’s Jermaine Harvey-Hyatt let his thoughts drift in the final 40 seconds of the OFSAA ‘AAA’ gold medal game Wednesday in a packed gym at Lambton College in Sarnia, Ont., they likely settled on the fact of an inevitable victory.
The 2023 Ontario high school championship was finally his, finally theirs, now and forever in the history books. Another banner for the Toronto program that produced NBA pick Josh Primo.
But Harvey-Hyatt, a speedy 6-foot point guard who leads with even-keeled intensity, appeared to stay in the moment — locked in until the end.
When the clock ticked to zero and the win became official — a 69-51 romp over Ursuline College of Chatham — he tossed the ball high into the air and screamed.
“Amazing,” he said afterward, describing the feeling. “Going into the season we had one goal. We came to do it, and we did it.”
Oakwood seniors lead victory
A fourth-year senior, Harvey-Hyatt had been to OFSAA once before, as a Grade 9 student.
He and fellow call-up and now-senior guard Victoire Ndongo watched as their team fell in the quarterfinals. That same year, their junior team didn’t even make the city championship.
They decided it wouldn’t happen again.
“We said: When we reach Grade 12, no team’s going to be able to stop us,” he said. “And we’re here now.”
All but one of Oakwood’s starters is in Grade 12, and all are expected to return next season.
They include Malko Young, a dead eye shooter with a feathery touch from long range, and fleet-footed guard Timothy Morant. All four factored heavily into the OFSAA victory.
OFSAA champs control tempo
Oakwood controlled the tempo for much of the first quarter and led 19-6 at the break. They steadily padded the lead while Ursuline tried to claw back, and carried a 36-21 lead at halftime.
Ursuline had trouble making perimeter shots for much of the game, and lacked the size and muscle needed to spar with Oakwood for rebounds, or effectively defend them in the paint.
Despite all that, they earned their opponents’ respect.
“Props to them, but they were young guys,” said Harvey-Hyatt. “We just had more experience, in the end.”
Freshmen guards Jaxen Baker and C.J. Roberts led the Ursuline attack, along with sophomore Caleb Roberts and Grade 11 shooter Rees Evans.
They’re a young team with plenty of time to grow.
“If you can start two Grade 9s and play in an OFSAA provincial championship — those kids are special,” said Oakwood head coach Anthony Miller.
Oakwood steamrolls competition
Oakwood entered OFSAA as the No. 1 seed, and played largely as expected.
They steamrolled Sir Frederick Banting (London, Ont.) 63-38 in their opener and followed that with a 62-46 blowout over Bradford District High School (Simcoe County).
Oakwood’s only scare was a narrow 59-54 victory over eighth-seed Frontenac Secondary School (Kingston, Ont.) in the third round.
Their final win before the medal game was 59-43 over St. Michael’s College (Toronto).
“I love it for the kids, because they’ve been working hard,” said coach Miller. “This just culminates everything for us … our seniors were amazing.”
While the rise of Ontario’s preparatory system has diminished the prestige of an OFSAA championship, it still matters deeply to the teams who play for it.
“It shows that kids can stay and play quality basketball,” said Miller. “There’s a lot of really good basketball in high school. I don’t believe in that prep stuff.”
Oakwood seniors aim to run it back
If all of Oakwood’s key veterans return next season, they’ll likely make another run at an OFSAA title. After that, it’s expected several will play university ball in the U.S. or Canada.
“The ceiling is good,” said Miller when asked about their potential.
“We get good kids, and we always say: Prepare yourself for college, university or whatever comes. Give yourself as many choices, options as possible. We’ve got some talented kids.”
As for Jermaine Harvey-Hyatt, he seemed to savour those final 40 seconds in Sarnia.
“We’ve been playing together four years, had our chemistry,” he said of his fellow seniors. “It means the world [to win it with them].”
The plan from here is simple to say, harder to achieve.
“Run it back next year.”