It was a shot Phoenyx Wyse knew he had to make.
Throughout the OFSAA ‘AAA’ bronze medal game, the precocious Grade 10 guard from the St. Michael’s College Raiders (Toronto, Ont.) struggled to make free throws.
After a phenomenal first half, defenders from the Notre Dame Knights (Brampton, Ont.) largely contained him.
They threw double teams at him, clogged the lane, swarmed him when he moved toward the basket.
And in doing so, they clawed their way back into a lopsided game and forced overtime.
OFSAA battle for St. Michael’s
Wyse was banged up. His ankle was sprained, he said. There was a contusion in his left shoulder. Both legs cramped up. He moved gingerly, fighting through pain.
Still, the 6-foot-4 sophomore was head and shoulders above most other players on the court. He needed to dig deep. He needed to find a way to win this winnable game.
So with St. Michael’s down 59-57 and three seconds left in the extra frame, he gathered a pass on the right wing, took a giant step to his left, and arrived at the top of the key.
He crossed over to his right, shaking a defender slightly, straightened up, and nailed a step-back three-pointer to give the Raiders a 60-59 lead.
Moments later, after Notre Dame flubbed a final inbounds play, the victory was secure. Wyse crouched low to the floor and held his head in his hands.
OFSAA tourney a proving ground
His teammates hugged him, hyped him up, beamed as if they couldn’t believe he made that shot.
“I was so emotional, man,” he said later, in a post-game interview with BasketballBuzz.
“I had some tears rolling down … after hitting that shot, I felt like the world just got lifted off my shoulders. It was amazing. Just amazing.”
Wyse and lanky Raiders forward Noah Pistilli were key reasons why St. Michael’s jumped out to a 14-2 first-quarter lead. They combined on a series of layups and pull-up jumpers that left the Knights on their heels.
Notre Dame adjusted well, and trailed by just three points (36-33) at halftime. Knights guard Naheem Davidson made several key shots, some from beyond the arc.
Early in the third quarter, fifth-year forward Cameron Francis gave Notre Dame its first lead of the game on a layup near the six-minute mark.
The rest of the game was evenly-played. In its final moments, the victory was still up for grabs. Phoenyx Wyse decided to snatch it.
OFSAA win a building block
“It felt easy at the beginning,” he said, referring to the first quarter.
“But I have to give props … they came in, working our guards. They started to lock me up, got me frustrated. But me and my team, we realized we can do this. We have to push through.”
Wyse wanted to score, but knew he needed to trust his teammates. He passed more, picked his spots.
“Man, I won’t lie. It was rough,” he said, referring to the defence’s stifling tactics.
“But eventually I realized I have to use my team more. Since they’re [the defence is] coming on me, there’s has to be someone that’s open.”
St. Michael’s entered OFSAA with the fourth seed, and posted decisive wins over St. Patrick’s (Ottawa, 58-44), Lo-Ellen Park (Sudbury, 65-59) and Sarnia Northern (63-54).
They fell 59-43 to eventual gold medallists Oakwood Collegiate, setting up a matchup with consolation champion Notre Dame in the bronze medal game.
Time will tell if St. Michael’s finds another gear next season. The bulk of the team is eligible to return, with four Grade 10 students and seven Grade 11s listed on its OFSAA roster.
“My expectation is to win gold now,” said Wyse. “That’s mostly it.”