Saints break their Oakwood curse

TO THE VICTORS SPOILS: Manny Diresa and James Sylvester celebrate their South Region title. The two were a key part of a 57-55 win over Oakwood.

Last second deuce by Jamar Martin seals win

With a giant grin, big man Jamar Martin beamed when reflecting on his game-winning deuce in the South Region finals.

Eastern Commerce’s senior boys basketball squad pulled out a dramatic 57-55 win over Oakwood, and it was a great way for Martin to end his basketball career with the Saints.

“I’ve been at Eastern my whole life, always wanted to beat Oakwood, … so this is the first time beating them,” he said.

In the dying moments, Saints point guard James Sylvester carried the ball into Barons territory, letting time slip away from the clock while the match was tied.

“I thought (Sylvester) was going to go to the wing to one of our best scorers Ammanuel (Diresa), but he went to our next senior Jamar, and Jamar caught it,” said coach Kevin Jeffers. “It was one of those weird slowed-down moments where Jamar caught the ball, a hook over the bigman, bounce, bounce and I’m like, ‘You’ve got to go in’ and it did.

“It was one of those feel good moments for him, fifth year guy.”

It was a sign of good teamwork for the Saints who snapped a South Region final losing streak.

“We stuck with it, and we never gave up,” Martin said. “At one point we were down, and just kept up our energy and we stayed together as a team, as a family.”

For the Gold and Blue, Barons coach Anthony Miller stressed the importance of ball possession and accuracy. Oakwood turned the ball over 24 times, a stat no team can recover from.

“If I go to the stats sheet and I look at it and see how many turnovers they had, I’m sure we had more,” Miller said. “How many free throws did they make compared to us? I’m sure they made more.

“If anybody has watched an NBA game, you hear that all the time, the team that turns the ball over more and misses more free throws loses the game.”

Still, Calvin Epistola led all Barons scorers with 13 points, while Tyrell Bellot-Green had 11.

Eastern Commerce started off slow, Jeffers said, but once they got moving their go-to guy was Sylvester, who scored 23 points.

“Sylvester started out the game missing and turning it over,” Jeffers said. “I pulled him out early, looked at him and said, ‘Where are you?’ ”

“We rely on him a lot, he’s a grade 12, and he’s one of our leaders and he came out,” he added. “Then I put him out, he gets a steal and dunk. Next, same deal and that made him come alive.”

Jeffers said the team was not finished as they headed into the AAAA City playoffs. First they beat Sir Wilfrid Laurier 65-56 on Feb. 16, bounced Silverthorn 73-63 in the semis and then eliminated West Hill 56-49 to qualify for the OFSAA championships.

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