Senior Lions and junior Gaels capture titles in differing fashions
GUELPH – The District 10 high school girls’ basketball championship doubleheader at the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre Saturday night featured two title tilts with totally different scripts.
The St. James Lions captured the senior crown in the nightcap after prevailing 45-38 over the Centennial Spartans in a defensive battle while the Guelph CVI Green Gaels put it in top gear early to run away with junior honours in the opening game as they downed the Ross Royals 59-30.
Both senior teams and the junior Gaels advance to CWOSSA regional championship tournaments in the next week.
“Both teams are built on defence first and offence kind of runs off that,” St. James coach Michael O’Rourke said.
While each team won two quarters in the final, it was a 16-9 first-quarter performance by the Lions that led to the win as the Spartans never caught up.
“We know they have some strong shooters on their team so we really try to break out and try to deny the ball,” St. James captain Grace Mencfeld said. She was her team’s MVP of the final. “We try to not let them take shots and get every single rebound. That was our plan going into the game, but we knew we also had to work on offence just as hard as defence.”
The Lions’ lead fell a couple of point to five (22-17) at halftime before it grew by three (34-26) by the end of the third quarter. The Spartans remained close behind throughout, but just couldn’t pull even.
Both teams struggled with their shooting as the different sight-lines in the GGAC proved to be difficult to overcome. High school gyms have walls behind the baskets and solid backboards while the university gym has stands behind and clear backboards. There’s also stands on both sides at the university, something no D10 high school has in its gym.
“The shooting is the X factor in this gym,” O’Rourke said.
The teams actually took a little solace knowing that neither one’s season was going to end Saturday night. St. James moves on to the CWOSSA AA tournament at Simcoe Thursday and Friday while Centennial will be off to the CWOSSA AAA tournament at Brantford Friday and Saturday.
“There was a lot of pressure going into the game, but it was nice knowing that we were both going to CWOSSA so that was a little relaxing,” Mencfeld said. “But we still had the goal of winning D10 this year so we just wanted to reach that goal first before thinking about CWOSSA.”
Mencfeld led all scorers with 19 points while Olivia Brown had 10 for the Lions. Elivia Garbuio and Elizabeth Malone added seven apiece and Amanda Lago had two.
Centennial’s game MVP Sarah Cobey had 14 points for the Spartans while Jocelyn Newby had 13, Jessica Zhu six, Trinity Burke three and Madison Miller two.
Now it’s time for both to look ahead to the CWOSSA tournaments.
“I don’t what to expect there,” Mencfeld said. “I don’t know any teams there. We haven’t looked at that yet, but we need to play hard defence, do our same sets and just work hard.”
Play at tournaments this season might be an indication of how well the Lions will do and they’ve claimed three consolation championships which means they’ve rebounded to win every game they played after a first-round setback.
“In tournaments we’ve done all right,” Mencfeld said. “Our tournaments have really brought us together as a team. We have girls stepping up as scorers, girls stepping up as rebounders, girls playing more defence so the tournaments have really made us come together as a team.”
While D10 teams have won the past 14 CWOSSA AA senior titles – 13 of them by the Bishop Macdonell Celtics – it isn’t the same easy path it used to be when there were four categories, all based on school enrollment. OFSAA added the AAAA category in 2002, but returned to a three-category system in 2015 and that meant that some of the schools that were in AAA were now in AA.
“CWOSSA’s going to be hard,” O’Rourke said. “It’s not a walk. It’s going to be a hard fight and that’s the way it should be.”
“WCSAA never had a AA team before and District 8 never had a AA team before. You’d go play country teams, but now you’re going against some city teams that are used to winning. We’re going to play teams that are champions in their region and they’re used to winning and they expect to win. It’s going to be tough and hopefully we can go down there and get the next step.”
WCSAA and District 8 schools are based in Waterloo Region with the majority of them in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.
The dominant team in D10 team junior girls’ basketball’s regular season was the dominant team in the final, too, as the GCVI Green Gaels burst out of the gates to leave Ross behind.
“The girls executed really well,” GCVI coach Rich Tremain said. “We’re a high-octane kind of team and we like to run up and down the floor. We started out that way and we were able to relax a little bit in the second half.”
The Gaels sprinted to a 24-8 lead by the end of the first quarter and stretched that to 37-12 at halftime. The gap continued to grow in the third quarter as GCVI ended the quarter up 54-17 before easing off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter.
“It’s certainly the best team I’ve ever coached,” Tremain said. “We have so much more depth than any team I’ve had at a junior girls’ high school level. Having said that, CWOSSA’s tough this year. There’s a lot of really good teams and we’ve played a couple of them that we’ll see next week and we’ve got our work cut out for us at CWOSSA, for sure. But this team, certainly we have the depth and we have the skills and the ability to take that championship, but it’s going to take a lot of work.”
Bad news for the rest of the D10 junior loop, the majority of GCVI’s 12-player roster are Grade 9s and will be eligible to stay in junior if they desire.
“My suspicion would be that some of them would move up to senior next year,” Tremain said. “That’s what my guess would be. We’ll see how next weekend goes. Obviously, as a high school student you’d like to have a CWOSSA title if you can so the only thing that I think would hold three or four of them back would be if they didn’t get that title and they’d come back for that opportunity. But who knows? A year is a long time away.”
The team also made its mix of Grade 9s and Grade 10s work well, although the younger players were the ones who saw the majority of playing time.
“We have nine Grade 9s on our team so the Grade 10s welcomed them and understood that there were strong Grade 9s coming in,” Tremain said. “Everybody accepts their role really well and we’ve really come together. Like any team, we’ve had our ups and downs this year, but we’re rolling along.”
Jordyn Best collected 15 points for the Gaels while Maddy Boyd, judged to be their MVP of the final, had 14. Acadia Tremain netted nine with Jada Beuttenmiller getting six and Claudia Durbin adding four.
Ross’s game MVP Bronwyn Sweeney had 10 points while Ailani Curvan had eight and Maren Mau and Susannah Morris hit for six apiece.
While GCVI played its way into the CWOSSA AAA junior tournament, D10’s two representatives in the CWOSSA AA junior tournament were decided as soon as the Bishop Macdonell Celtics didn’t field a junior squad. That left the Lourdes Crusaders and St. James Lions as the two AA schools in the league.
- Guelph Sports Journal