St. Stephen – Win tournament division to move on to semifinals – check.

Beat St. Stephen Spartans in semifinals to advance to finals – check.

Beat Calais Blue Devils in the final, again, to win the tournament for second consecutive year – also check.

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If the Fundy Mariners varsity boys’ basketball team had a tournament checklist during the 42nd Annual Ganong Invitational Tournament Friday and Saturday at the St. Stephen High
School, it may have looked a little something like that.

The game was a rematch of last year’s final, when for the first time in the tournament’s more than 40 year history: the Mariners added their name to the list of Ganong Invitational

Meeting the Blue Devils in the final – the Mariners stayed one step ahead for the majority of the 40 minutes, though the Blue Devils would temporarily steal the lead in attempts to plant seeds of doubt.

The Mariners had a halftime lead of 59-56. After trading baskets in the third, the Mariners pulled away from the drained Blue Devils, as fourth quarter titans for a 92-79 victory, and ultimately defended last year’s Ganong Invitational title.

“We just kept adjusting and they kept adjusting – it was a really good game. It’s almost like chess in the end – who can adjust the most.” – Mariners coach Geordie Doak

“It feels great,” Mariners coach, Geordie Doak, said of the consecutive tournament victory. “I’m really happy, because we’ve never won the tournament in a row, and to be able to show that our program can come out and compete against an even stronger Calais team this year, and still come away with a victory,” he added, and noted in the last few years, the two teams have been tournament rivals.

“I dunno if it’s six years in a row now, but we’ve played them in the first game, and we play them in the last game, and every time, it’s a nail biter.”

Leading on the Mariners scoreboard was Tristan French (who was also named tournament MVP) with 24 points, Dylan Cooke netted 19, and Shane Brown added 17. For the Blue Devils, Matt Perkins led with 26 points, Addison Coty put up 14, and Jacob Hornbrook added 11.

The Mariners came to the Ganong Invitational game ready – it was the seventh tournament in a row for the squad thus far of the season – but the first victory.

“They’ve got their legs under them now, knowing how to get from the first game to the last game, and maintain that, because it’s a lot of games in one day, and the teams get to see you a lot, and adjust to you each time.

“We just kept adjusting and they kept adjusting – it was a really good game. It’s almost like chess in the end – who can adjust the most.”

In the Duncan McGeachy division with the McAdam High Warriors, and Calais Blue Devils (the tournament host Spartans were in the Al Casey division with the Harvey Lakers, and École Sainte-Anne Castors), the Mariners were 2-0 in preliminary play, starting with a big 77-50 victory over the McAdam High Warriors.

Foreshadowing Saturday’s final, the Mariners met the Blue Devils in an evening match Friday, edging the tournament rival 76-73.

On Saturday, as the first place finisher of the Duncan McGeachy division, the Mariners met the Spartans (second place Al Casey division finisher) in semifinals, and cruised to a 75-45
victory for the championship berth.

What did Doak find his team did particularly well over the course of the tournament?
“Ball movement, and finally learning to box out,” he said with a smile.

And he’s not wrong – perhaps the most fun to watch was French’s no-look passes under the net, for a near surefire way to a quick two points.

French, a senior, said for him, it’s a neat feeling to see the Mariners’ name now listed on the tournament brochure as winners.

“It’s cool seeing our name on the (tournament) brochure, and now twice in a row. We’ve got a good team, so it’s pretty fun,” French said, smiling.

“Last year we also played Calais. …They’ve been a tough team, and its fun to play against them.”

Neck and neck throughout, French said the Mariners adjusted and strengthened their mental edge by fighting through bouts of bad luck.

“We just had to stop caring about the refs. The refs were letting everything go, so we had to be the team that said ‘we don’t care’. And that ultimately let us win,” French said, and noted the Blue Devils were the team they anticipated to be their toughest competition.

“We didn’t know anything about them, but we knew they were a young strong team last year and they would only get better. We didn’t know that their big man (Matt Perkins) would get back, and that was kind of a surprise.”

Along with French, there are four other seniors on the team – Brennan Sullivan, Dawson Steen, Ryan Jones and John Markey. Two players, Noah Anthony, and Andrew Butler, both in their Grade 10 year, are new to the team. Both French and Doak agreed the two are great additions to the team.

“Our young guys are really strong actually for our team,” Doak said. “Our program is looking really good,” he added.

The Mariners are currently 2-1 in the regular season, having lost to the Rothesay Red Hawks, with victories over the Spartans and Hampton Huskies. The Mariners are looking to avenge the nine point loss in a rematch with the Red Hawks, scheduled to take place on January 17 at Fundy Middle and High School.

On the horizon as the second half of the season is approaching, the Mariners have conference rematches with the Huskies, Spartans, and Red Hawks.

“As the boys say, we’ve got to get wet – which means work on our shot, and continue with the ball movement and then just become better defenders,” Doak said.

“Our defence is something we’ve been working on all year and you can see glimmers of a great defensive team, and then you can see gaping holes that need to be fixed.”

The Mariners are slated to travel to Hampton on Wednesday to meet the Huskies.

Ganong Invitational results
Game 1
Harvey Lakers (54) vs. St. Stephen Spartans (73) – Drew Sears led the Spartans with 22 points, and Sam Poirier was close behind with 21; Jakob Connick added 13. For the Lakers, Owen Smith scored 13 points, Joe Robichaud had 12, and Adam Barrieau added 10.

Game 2
McAdam Warriors (50) vs. Fundy Mariners (97) – Game sheet not available.

Game 3
École Sainte-Anne Castors (63) VS. Harvey Lakers (59) – Smith led the Lakers with 12 points, while Josh Watson added 10.

Game 4
Mariners (76) vs. Calais Blue Devils (73) – Shane Brown led the way for the Mariners with 25 points, while Tristan French wasn’t far behind with 24 points (including five three-point baskets), and Ryan Jones and Dylan Cooke added nine each. For the Blue Devils, Matt Perkins put up 21 points, Blake Collins scored 18, and Jacob Hornbrook added 17.

Game 5
Spartans (81) vs. Castors (91) – Justus Meyer scored 19 points for the Spartans, while Poirier netted 16, and Connick added 14.

Game 6
Blue Devils (78) vs. Warriors (53) – Arthur Nicholas led the Blue Devils with 19 points, Addison Coty sank 16, and Dawson Critchley added 10. Leading the Warriors was Carter Scott and Riley Goodwin with 18 points each, while Cameron Messer added 12.

Game 7
(Semifinal No. 1): Spartans (45) vs. Mariners (75) – Ryan Jones put up 16 points for the Mariners, Brown netted 15, and Owen Jones added 12. Leading for the Spartans were Drew Sears with 15 points, and Connick and Greenlaw with eight each.

Game 8
(Semifinal No. 2): Blue Devils (78) vs. Castors (77) – In a back and forth, edge-of-your-seat-game, John Socobasin scored a buzzer beater to win the game, sending the Blue Devils’ to the championship final. Coty led the Blue Devils on the scoreboard with 30
points, and Perkins added 25.

Game 9
(Fifth place game): Lakers (66) vs. Warriors (69) – In a battle between A southern conference rivals, the Lakers came up three points short to the Warriors. Just one point ahead with less than 30 seconds left, and Warriors in possession, Goodwin exhausted the shot clock.

With seven seconds remaining on the shot clock, Goodwin drove to the net, drawing a foul. Sinking both foul shots gave the Warriors the extra two point breathing room.

Goodwin put up a total of 36 points for the Warriors, while Messer added 12. Smith led the Lakers with 15 points, Robichaud netted 11, and Logan Fraser-Cole added 10.

Championship final
Fundy Mariners (92) vs. Blue Devils (79) – In a balanced Mariners attack, French scored 24 points, Cooke sank 19, Brown scored 17, Owen Jones had 16, and Ryan Jones added 12. Perkins led the Blue Devils with 26 points, Coty netted 14, and Hornbrook added 11.