High school team's big win 'a respect thing' for basketball's inventor

Basketball inventor James Naismith was born there, and now a team of high schoolers from Almonte, Ont., has solidified the town's claim on the sport.

Provincial champs from birthplace of James Naismith bring home gold for 1st time since 1987

A statue of basketball inventor James Naismith sits beside the main street in Almonte, Ont., where he was born in 1861. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Basketball inventor James Naismith was born there, and now a team of high schoolers from Almonte, Ont., has solidified the town's claim on the sport.

The senior boys basketball squad from Almonte District High School (ADHS) brought home gold from the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championship on Wednesday, where they beat Ottawa's Notre Dame High School by a score of 68-65.

It's almost expected that we have good basketball in Almonte .- Kevin Hickey, coach

It's the first time the school has won top place at the Ontario championships since 1987, when some of the current players' dads were on the team.

The senior boys basketball team from Almonte District High School brought home gold from a championship game on Wednesday. And in the hometown of James Naismith, basketball's inventor, players and coaches say it's an especially meaningful win. 1:01

Coach Kevin Hickey was also on the 1987 team, and said he was proud to watch the hard work put in by his son, Liam, and the rest of the players finally pay off.

"We're a basketball family, and in our eyes it's almost expected that we have good basketball in Almonte," Hickey said. "It's a respect thing for Dr. James Naismith from our standpoint, so that's what we strive for."

Player Jonah Lee says his dad, who was on the last OFSAA gold medal-winning team from Almonte, Ont., attended Wednesday's final. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Naismith wrote rule book

Naismith was born in Almonte in 1861, and penned the original rules for basketball on Dec. 21, 1891, for the YMCA training school in Springfield, Mass.

Now, a larger-than-life statue of Naismith sits in downtown Almonte, a tribute to the man who invented one of the world's most popular sports. 

By all accounts, the high school team's dramatic win on Wednesday was monumental in its own right.

Proud moment: The Almonte District High School senior boys basketball team won gold at the OFSAA championship in London, Ont., on Wednesday. (Submitted)

Comeback win 'still hasn't sunk in'

ADHS was down by 12 points with only three minutes left in the game before bouncing back in what Dan Hickey, who coaches alongside his brother, called one of the "best comebacks in OFSAA history."

"The whole town of Almonte was watching, and right now we're kind of like stars," he said. "Everybody is still on cloud nine. [It] still hasn't sunk in."

Coaches (and brothers) Kevin, left, and Dan Hickey. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Player Jonah Lee said his dad, who was also on the last winning team, travelled all the way to London, Ont., to watch the championship game.

"To experience that with him, it was an emotional moment for me and I'll cherish it forever," Lee said.

Students at ADHS were asked to wear school colours orange and black on Thursday to show support for the athletes, coaches and volunteers who worked hard to bring home the gold.


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