By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
WELLAND – Centennial Cougars captured the Welland Tribune Basketball Tournament’s championship with a 69-63 hard-fought win over Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday.
The game, several long-time high school hoops fans said, was easily the best in recent memory. Caesar Hajdu, 97, who said he has been to every tournament save one since its inception in 1955, described Saturday’s championship game as “unforgettable”. Coming from this seasoned hardwood habitué, that means something.
The game was charged with excitement and emotion from the early going as fans from both sides turned up the volume in Notre Dame’s Dillon Hall. The bleachers were full from courtside level to nosebleeds. The footstomping by rabid fans was thunderous; the cheers of support, and at times the chants of derision, were eardrum shattering. “This is our house,” the Irish faithful screamed when the game was in their favour. “This is our house,” Centennial fans retorted with venomous glee when the momentum swung their team’s way. Ouch!
With the win, the Cougars exacted a measure of revenge. In the 2017 championship final, the Irish beat them 68-60.
The game and all its intensity was evocative of the rivalry and passion that came to be expected when city rivals Notre Dame and Welland High met in regular season and Tribune Tournament matchups in years gone by.
The tournament’s consolation championship was won by St. Michael’s Mustangs of Niagara Falls, who got by the new kid on the high school block, Greater Fort Erie Secondary School Gryphons, 53-52.
Full game coverage can be found on various social media, and The Tribune, http://www.wellandtribune.ca/ and of course in the newspaper’s Monday edition.
For those who were not able to make it to the games, or for those who were there and want to enjoy the experience all over again, the games are being shown on Your TV, Cogeco, Channel 10 and Channel 700 HD.
Air dates are: Friday, January 10, noon; Monday, January 22, 6pm and Thursday, January 25, 7pm.
Also, one week after the tournament, broadcasts will be available on the free Video on Demand channel, Channel 602.