Though the old one just ended the head coach of the Lambton Lions men’s basketball team is already chomping at the bit for next season.
James Grant is more than a little excited his charges came within a whisker of advancing to the bronze medal game at the OCAA provincial tournament in Oshawa earlier this month.
After a disappointing loss in their final home game of the regular season, which would have given the Lions a home playoff game for the first time in recent memory, Lambton went on the road and easily beat Centennial in Toronto, 97-70 to qualify for the provincial event.
There, Lambton fell by one point in double overtime to Humber, the top-ranked team in Ontario, beat fifth-ranked Georgian College by 11 points, and, after a late rally, lost by a point to 10th-seeded St. Lawrence College from Kingston when a buzzer beater failed to fall for the Lions.
Lambton was ranked eighth going into the OCAA tournament.
“Heading into the season, we had our sights set on getting back to the playoffs, but I’m not sure anybody thought we’d get through to the tournament,” said Grant.
“(The result) was disappointing, but being part of the tournament was a lot of fun.”
Competing with much larger schools from in and around the GTA will always be a challenge, said Grant, but now that Lambton has made strides, he wants the team to stay a contender.
To augment the returning starting lineup of Mike Lucier, Shawn Hill, Brandon Padgett, Jason Marshell and Jaason Heron, Grant has recruited Anthony Smith from Anchor Bay High School in New Baltimore, Michigan, as well as a pair of Sarnia-St. Pat’s grads, Josh Elsley and Jay McAuley.
The Michigan school produced current Lambton starters, Padgett and Marshell.
Grant is still searching a least one big man to round out the lineup.
“I think next season we’re going to be looking at a solid 10-man rotation,” he said. “It’s going to be that much better when we have more guys we can rely on for 20 minutes per game and who will make a positive impact.”
Injuries forced him to use a smaller rotation at times this season, leading to physical and mental fatigue for some starters, the coach said.
“Hopefully, we can get back to the (provincial) tournament again next year.