How sweet the taste of redemption is.
Just over a year removed from a tough 86-52 loss to Sunset Landscaping in their first crack at a championship, the fifth-place Revco Renegades weren’t going to be denied on their second attempt as they rolled to a 59-47 win over the third-place BDO Ballerz in the Fort Frances Men’s Basketball League final last Tuesday night at Fort High.
In many ways, it was the “veterans” game as both teams featured a lot of players who have been in the league for many years.
Being in the league that long also means you can be considered “old.” And of the 14 players dressed for both teams, only two were under the age of 20.
The vast majority of the rest were in their late 30s and 40s. But age is just a number, and with the championship trophy and medals up for grabs, the intensity level and compete level was fun to watch.
BDO started off the game extremely strong in jumping out to an early 12-4 lead, as their 1-3-1 defence initially did an effective job of shutting down Revco’s offence.
But the wily veterans on the Renegades eventually figured out how to expose some of the holes in the system.
With Brad Wardas driving hard to the hoop, and getting buckets, coupled with John Sivonen stretching the defence with his three-point game, Revco went on a 22-6 run and went into halftime with a 26-18 lead.
The second half saw the Ballerz pick up their three-point game to start the frame, as Jordan Lavallee (13 points), Jeff Campbell (six points), and Todd Richards (10 points) all connected from beyond the arc.
They eventually trimmed Revco’s lead to 37-32 and looked poised to make the game tight heading into the final minutes.
But TJ States–with a few nice feeds from his son, Dominic–scored nine of his 12 points in the half. Meanwhile, the veteran trio of Conrad Dueck, Steve Windels, and Dave Petsnick chipped in a combined seven points in the frame to help Revco secure its first-ever league crown.
Both teams fought hard and showed great sportsmanship.
It also was a bittersweet win for Dueck, who has served as the league’s commissioner for the last four years and has been instrumental in helping it grow to six teams.
Dueck will be moving back to Winnipeg at the end of June, and after having been a member of the league for seven years, says he will miss both the sport and the men that he has had a chance to play and become friends with.
“I’m not a great basketball player but I have always felt encouraged to try my best and enjoy the game playing with these guys,” he enthused.
“I’ve learned a lot about basketball from them and been blessed to play alongside some really great players for a lot of years.
“They have appreciated my efforts in organizing things and made it memorable to be a part of my first–and likely only–men’s basketball league,” Dueck added.
“I’m going to miss these guys and our Tuesday nights a lot.”
The players presented Dueck with the game ball after the game and they all signed it as a token of their appreciation, which made for a special moment.
“A big thank you to Conrad Dueck for running a fun league,” offered Renegades’ sponsor, Dave Petsnick.
“He spends lots of time planning and organizing to keep it running smoothly,” he lauded, adding that, “Everyone appreciates it, Conrad!”
Another meaningful part of the night was the presentation of the first-ever Will Anderson MVP Award to Sunset Landscaping’s Josh Mastin.
Anderson, who played in the league for many years while in high school, passed away a year ago. In honour of his memory, this new award was created.
He was a prolific scorer while in the league and Mastin truly was a worthy recipient of this inaugural award.
Prior to the championship final, second-place Sunset Landscaping and the top-ranked RBC Lions battled it out for bronze.
With the regular-season juggernaut RBC failing to make it to the finals, and last year’s champs Sunset Landscaping finding themselves in the same situation, pride was on the line as these two teams took to the court.
Mark Heyens, Sunset’s owner and the team’s best player on the night, came out flying and contributed all the points as his team jumped out to an early 8-1 lead.
The Lions shook off their sluggish start fairly quickly, however, and went on a 10-2 run of their own to forge ahead 11-10.
Then, as both Brady Jenson and Theron George started hitting their shots, RBC increased its lead and went into the break up 28-21.
Sunset’s offence continued to sputter in the second half, and even though the Lions had no subs, their speed picked up and they continued to add to their lead.
Jenson topped all RBC scorers with a game-high 27 points and helped his squad build a 23-point cushion at one point in the half.
Sunset did fight back to trim it to 55-41 but they never found their shooting grove and ended the night without a three-pointer for the first time all year, resulting in 65-43 loss.
Heyens had a strong night all around, ending up with 18 points, but no on else on Sunset scored more than six points.
Corey Smith and George provided excellent secondary scoring for RBC, both winding up with 13 points in the season-ending win.
“Overall, outside of some games needing to be forfeited due to lack of players in the middle of the season, it was a great year,” Dueck enthused.
“A big thanks goes out again to Trevor Martin and Josh Pawluk for their constant presence at the scorekeepers’ table.
“They help keep the league running,” he stressed.
“The players should also be thankful to hear that Toby Munro and Todd Richards have accepted the responsibility to lead the league next year, so expect another great season starting up in October,” Dueck revealed.
“It would make things easier for them if all the league jerseys were returned so for the 10-plus players who still have jerseys, please return them.
“They can be dropped off at the Revco office/store in Fort Frances during office hours,” Dueck noted.
On a personal note, Dueck also wanted to thank every player in the league for all the fun times over the years.
“A special thanks to my Revco teammates who made it a lot of fun to come out, play hard, score my two-four points a night, and get some exercise,” he remarked. “You guys are the best! I will definitely miss this part of my Northwestern Ontario life.
“Looking forward to coming around one Tuesday in the years ahead to see how things are going,” Dueck added.
“Please support Toby and Todd as well as you have me.”