BlackJacks season ends but coach James Derouin finds silver lining

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Plain and simple, the Ottawa BlackJacks missed too many shots at too many key moments.

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Similarly, with a different spin of the basketball here or a foul call the other way late Friday night, the BlackJacks could very well be gearing up for a CEBL Championship game Sunday afternoon at TD Place.

Fate had other plans, however, as the Hamilton Honey Badgers cruised to a 76-72 win over the BlackJacks, converting shots at key moments and making vital defensive saves when it mattered most.

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The Honey Badgers will now face the Scarborough Shooting Stars on Sunday for the title.

Yet 50 minutes after the devastating loss, BlackJacks coach James Derouin – who is also the head coach of the uOttawa Gee Gees – had adopted a deeply introspective tone about anything and everything surrounding his team and the CEBL in general.

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That included former Gee-Gees star Caleb Agada, who played for Derouin during his college years, burying the Honey Badgers’ game-winning free throw to cap the ELAM ending in front of a spirited crowd of 2,827 spectators. .

“I don’t mean to be corny, but I’m thrilled that if it had to be someone, I’d prefer it to be Caleb,” Derouin said.

Derouin, who took over the reins of the team after the dismissal of Charles Dubé-Brais three games into the season, then delivered a long monologue on the importance of having a Canadian professional league.

“I just think there’s maybe a bigger picture than the outcome of this game,” he said.

“I thought the crowd was great. In the last few minutes the place was as loud as I have ever heard and we will continue to expand on that.

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“And Caleb, a Canadian kid who played in college and played 19 of 20 games this year and was the (CEBL) Canadian Player of the Year. I am proud of everything he has accomplished. »

Agada had the last word of the night. Or, at least the last gesture.

The Honey Badgers needed just one point to reach the ELAM target score of 76 and Agada had two cracks from the foul line.

As the local crowd yelled at him, aiming for the right words or the noise to scare him away, he missed his first shot.

He got nothing but sharp with his second then calmly put his finger to his lips in response to the fans.

Derouin says he thought a lot after the club’s last regular season game two weeks ago – the BlackJacks earned an automatic semi-final berth as the host team – and couldn’t keep from getting lost in the evolution of the game in Canada. .

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“It’s about the league and all these teams and the opportunities they get and I think that’s been missed a lot,” he said.

“We watch Caleb play professional basketball in Ottawa, in the national semi-finals. Just take that for a second. We didn’t even have professional basketball in this country three years ago.

Derouin continued from there — and yes, he might sound corny again — trying to put even more perspective on the season-ending loss.

“I know someone has to win and I know we’re always obsessed with wins and losses, but I think everyone wins here. It is a showcase for these children. It was a great environment for a great game today and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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It’s not perfect, that’s for sure.

Johnny Berhanemeskel, an Ottawa native and another former Gee-Gees star, breathed life into the BlackJacks’ late-season wave after signing in July.

It turns out, however, that Berhanemeskel was unavailable for the BlackJacks on Friday due to his European team commitments. His absence is another element that could have made the difference in a tight game.

There are too many CEBL player moves in what is supposed to be an off-season of competitive European leagues, which operate through winter and spring.

As for Derouin, there is no guarantee that he will be back with the BlackJacks in 2023.

As he himself noted after the game, the ‘interim’ tag is still on his job title, but he says: ‘I’m already thinking positively about the whole experience. It was great fun.

He promises to use that experience in his other job, with the Gee-Gees.

He has nothing but respect for the professionals he dealt with, including the fact that they were willing to take on different roles than they were accustomed to, depending on ever-changing circumstances.

“These guys, who are phenomenal professional players, their buy-ins made it easy for me,” he said. “It just changes, maybe, the way I… the college game and the youth now and we’re maybe a little too flexible with some people with youth these days.”

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