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Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017
A pair of Sudbury two seeds showing the way to OFSAA
2017-11-22
by Randy Pascal

From strictly a Sudbury standpoint, the upcoming OFSAA Girls Basketball Championships (A/AA/AAA) which kickoff on Thursday might be the most highly anticipated tournaments of all time.

I, for one, cannot recall another time when a pair of SDSSAA entries have entered the provincial playdowns as number two seeds. Yet that is exactly the case for both the Lo-Ellen Park Knights (“AA” OFSAA in Huntsville) and the Macdonald-Cartier Panthères (“A” OFSAA in Timmins).

Throw in the fact that the Lockerby Vikings, seeded #13 and travelling to Guelph for the “AAA” playdowns, are playing their best basketball of the season and primed for an upset or two, and one can sense why there is a definite buzz in the air within the Sudbury girls basketball community.

Perhaps only a few eyebrows were raised when Lo-Ellen coach Jennifer Bourget and company earned a pre-tournament placement behind only the Frontenac Falcons from Kingston and U-16 national team talent Aaliyah Edwards. The Knights, after all, claimed bronze one year ago while competing at the OFSAA “A” tournament in Timmins, and this despite a starting roster that was largely centered around grade nine and ten athletes.

Certainly, the south end powerhouse were clearly the class of the local field, beating Macdonald-Cartier 62-33 in the city final and looking equally as impressive against the Korah Colts in the NOSSA final, racking up a 76-30 victory.

The Panthères, on the other hand, knocked off the Algonquin Barons 41-19 in their NOSSA final, as Clara Yanchuk (14 pts) and Arielle Douillette (12 pts) showed the way offensively. Both players, as well as floor general Ariane Saumure, formed part of the ESMC squad that competed at the “AA” OFSAA tournament last year at this time.

“We weren’t expected to go to OFSAA last year, it was a really big shock,” said Douillette at practice this week. “We got there and we were scared. This year, we’re more comfortable with it, we deserve to be there.”

In fact, the Jean-Vanier Lynx from Welland are two time defending champions, but enter this tournament ranked third, partially due to the fact that Macdonald-Cartier knocked them off in the Franco final earlier this fall. “With this team, we have a lot of speed, and we have a lot of high IQ basketball players, and that’s good,” noted long-time ESMC head coach Sebastien Gervais.

“We’re able to apply a lot of pressure, full court, tiring out opponents’ point guard. Because we have speed, I’m able to interchange my guards around, where I stay fresh and they get tired. We’re also able to gamble a little bit more, sometimes more than I would like, on defense. We can trap a little bit harder and force a bad pass, and still recover on some mistakes because of our speed.”

“Most of these girls are roughly the same height,” Gervais added. “I can play them at guard, I can play them at forward, I can play small ball, I can play big ball – I’ve got a lot of flexibility.” A shooter through most of her career with the Sudbury Jam club basketball teams, Douillette finds herself spending more time in the paint with the Panthères, just one of the players that provides coach Gervais the flexibility that he so covets.

“If someone gets injured or is tired, we can always switch positions,” she said. “Our point guard can go shooter, our shooter can go in the high post, even our tall girl (Yanchuk) can shoot. She shot six threes in one of our games. It’s nice, you don’t feel pressured. You always have another girl that can step up.”

The Macdonald-Cartier NOSSA championship roster includes Ariane Saumure, Arielle Douillette, Clara Yanchuk, Dayna Fairwell, Kaitlyn Wynn, Milla Coco, Meagan Hicks and Sophie Laforest.

The Lockerby Vikings, by contrast, were substantially less certain of the likelihood of their advancement to the high school “AAA” provincials. “We haven’t been to basketball OFSAA as a team before,” said 17 year old grade 12 senior Harmony Martel. “Going into NOSSA, we were determined to come out on top, especially since three of us are graduating this year.”

“I’m really happy how we did,” agreed fellow Class of 2018 teammate Jaclyn Groom. “I wasn’t sure we were going to make it to OFSAA this year, because we have such a small team (eight players in total).”

None of this comes as a surprise to the woman who works alongside fellow coaches Sean Green and Chris Graham in leading the charge with the Vikes. “The biggest challenge with this team is their own belief in their abilities, which is what a lot of athletes struggle with,” said former Lady Vees’ star Angie MacDonald.

“This past weekend at NOSSA, we saw the team we saw early in the year, sharing the ball, playing defense, doing what we were asking them to do, “ MacDonald continued. With the swan song looming for both Martel and Groom, as well as Desiree Desfosses, the Lockerby crew were particularly pleased to be able to accomplish their goal of OFSAA participation which had previously eluded them.

“I think it’s just going to be a fun experience, especially with this team,” suggested Groom. “I like playing with this group of girls, because we’re all really close. We’re a small team, so it’s really easy to get to know each other.”

In fact, the majority of the lineup have now played together for three years as members of the Senior Vikings squad. “We definitely know how each other plays,” said Martel. “We know what everyone is thinking, what we should do. It’s a lot easier since we all developed together as players.”

Still, there’s a pretty good chance that Lockerby will face teams will notably deeper lineups when they tipoff, beginning Thursday, in Guelph. “For our team, we definitely have to save our energy for some things,” stated Groom. “Normally, we don’t do full court press, because we would just be too tired.”

The Lockerby NOSSA gold medal winning team includes Harmony Martel, Veronica Dynes, Jaclyn Groom, Desiree Desfosses, Josée Filion, Mia Filion, Alysha MacEwen and Meaghan McMahon.

In other NOSSA news, the Macdonald-Cartier Panthères junior girls team completed the NOSSA "A" sweep in North Bay, bringing home their banner thanks to a 39-32 win over the Algonquin Barons.

The Panthères were led by the tandem of Bianca Rivard and Cloé Douillette, with 16 and 12 points respectively, with Karyne Villeneuve (3), Zoe Smith (3), Callie Moore (3) and Lexine Moyle (2) all hitting the scoresheet as well.

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