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This article was published 25/2/2020 (856 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Provincial high school basketball championships are normally reserved for teams built on veteran star power.
But at Vincent Massey Collegiate, the script has been flipped.
BY THE NUMBERSClick to Expand
Massey varsity girls
Ranked No. 1 in Manitoba;
Regular-season record: 8-1;
Overall record: 20-5;
Previous titles (10): 2013-14, 2009-10, 2008-09, 2002-03, 1987-88, 1986-87, 1982-83, 1980-81, 1972-73, 1971-72
Massey varsity boys
Raked No. 1 in Manitoba;
Regular-season record 11-1;
Overall record 21-4;
Previous titles (1): 2018-19
The Fort Garry school's varsity girls and varsity boys squads, both ranked No. 1 among the province's AAAA teams, rely heavily on Grade 10 and 11 players for their success and that spells trouble for rivals at next month's provincial championships and beyond.
A clean sweep by the Trojans at the provincials would match a feat accomplished only three times in the 51-year history of AAAA varsity basketball in Manitoba.
Massey's varsity girls are led by Grade 11 point guard Olivia Weekes, whose size and athleticism creates a matchup crisis for an opponent the moment she steps on the floor.
"We’re super fast paced," said the 5-foot-11 Weekes, one of seven players from last year's JV provincial champs on the varsity team. "Our whole team is athletic, so we have a lot of agility and we’re really versatile. But we’re still waiting to play a super good game."
Head coach Stacy Hawash, in her 15th season leading the program, said having a productive feeder system is crucial to ongoing success.
Massey JV girls coach Adam Khan's daughter Ayva, a Grade 10 guard, is an up-and-coming star while forwards Jorie Traill and Jacqueline Purchase-Page and guard Lola Srzic, a trio of Grade 11s, have been a big part of Massey's high-tempo attack.
"We’re super fast paced. Our whole team is athletic, so we have a lot of agility and we’re really versatile. But we’re still waiting to play a super good game." — Grade 11 Vincent Massey point guard Olivia Weekes
The Trojans get things started at the other end, pressuring opponents to create turnovers before moving quickly to the offence.
"Our strong defence leads to our offence and lots of transition points," said 5-11 guard/forward Katrina Rogan, who has committed to play at the University of Winnipeg next fall.
"It didn’t take us long to put the puzzle pieces together. We had played on other teams in the past and we already had some good chemistry."
Rogan and guard Elena Markovic, a pair of Grade 12 players, give the Trojans valuable experience but Hawash said the precocious Weekes, the 16-year-old daughter of former University of Manitoba Bisons forward Michael Weekes, is the main catalyst.
"She’s a very versatile player at both ends of the court, she can shoot it outside, take it to the hoop," said Hawash, whose team wraps up its Winnipeg Tier I regular season with a game against the visiting St. Mary's Academy Flames Thursday night.
"She’s definitely very athletic and very skilled… she can also go inside when she has a mismatch, which is a nice feature."
The Massey boys also have a point guard who is a focus of everything they do.
Dami Farinloye, a complementary player on last season's uber-talented provincial champs, has become one of the finest players in the province with a devastating combination of speed, rebounding savvy and knack for being a defensive disrupter.
"He’s 6-2 with a 6-8 wingspan, so he’s not the tallest player but he’s got serious attributes there in terms of the length of his arms," said Trojans boys head coach Nick Lother. "The other thing that stands out for him is his conditioning is way above average. He’s able to play at a (high) rate that not a lot of other players can."
Farinloye's ability to take over a game was in full display in Monday night's regular-season finale, a 105-78 blowout win over the fifth-ranked St. Paul's Crusaders.
Farinloye had 22 points but he also consistently triggered the Trojans' transition by pulling in a rebound or causing a turnover.
"He’s 6-2 with a 6-8 wingspan, so he’s not the tallest player but he’s got serious attributes there in terms of the length of his arms." — Trojans boys head coach Nick Lother on team point guard, Dami Farinloye
Lother said his point guard, who played in the shadow of graduating stars Jackson Tachinski and Kyler Filewich a year go, has only asserted himself as a dominant player in the last month.
"The main adjustment has been teams focusing on me," said Farinloye. "I think what I’ve gotten better at is I’m more patient and looking to kick (the ball) out and then maybe getting the ball back. That’s been the biggest improvement since the start of the season — not just putting my head down and driving to the rim."
Lother believes Farinloye has gone from being a mere prospect for the U Sports level to a player with bigger potential.
"He’s had a really good couple of weeks," said Lother. "He’s asserted himself, in my opinion, as one of the better guys in the province. He had a helluva performance against Sturgeon last week in league."
While veteran Farinloye is the main man and the lone Grade 12 starter, the remainder of Massey's starting five is young and productive and turned what might have been a transition year into another shot at the top.
Forwards Lotachukwu Offor and Brendan Amoyaw and guards Elijah Grant and Quadri Akinwande have been superb as the Trojans have risen to the top from a pre-season No. 2 ranking.
On Monday, the 6-6 Offor rested an ailing knee in preparation for the playoffs but Amoyah was there to pick up the slack. The 6-5 Grade 10 transfer from Grant Park scored 17 points against St. Paul's, many while the Trojans were pulling away in the second half.
"We wanted to play our game and not let them take advantage of us," said Amoyah, who going through a growth spurt his doctor has advised him could take him to 6-9. "For us, that means playing with speed, going hard in transition and doing what we want to do."
Lother said Amoyah has tantalizing potential — an excellent athlete with a good brain for the game. Amoyah played a wing position at Grant Park and has been getting accustomed to the different responsibilities in the post. It's a process, especially for someone so young.
"My experience with kids that young and that long, it’s going to take them a little bit of time to get their strength," said Lother. "The potential is scary."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.