By Darren Lum
Solid team play and a team first attitude propelled the Jaguars intermediate basketball team to a championship title.
With peers and faculty of the J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School watching on screens in the Haliburton school the Grade 7/8 Jaguars won the Division A Intermediate Girls County Tournament by beating Jack Callaghan 14-10 in the final on Tuesday April 9 at Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden.
Head coach Andrew Dawson said the broadcast motivated his players who had come in with a belief they could win it all.
“We all knew they were watching and that motivated us. It made it more fun. We felt like a professional ball club” coach Andrew Dawson wrote.
This title is likely the team’s first championship in at least nine years said assistant coach Jessica Madamba who said this success is attributed to how the group played together.
During practices the team would pass the ball up to 20 times which “highlighted for them that it’s not about who gets the basket but rather how as a team you get the ball in the basket.”
She adds “they were always encouraging each other and lifting each other up. Technique and skill are important but we also wanted to impress upon them that their attitude and openness to critique is also critical to team success.”
Dawson said coming into the tournament the team had prepared with practices Tuesday and Thursday mornings every week since February. The team’s practices helped to prepare the team for “game situations.”
They focused on transition defence by making sure all five players were getting back to their own three point line to be in position for defensive coverages. The team focused on team play and drills were done using the full court.
“We worked on getting low while playing defence. We worked on moving without the basketball and the importance of talking on defence” he wrote in an email.
The team’s road to the final wasn’t without challenge.
During the opening round-robin game the Jaguars were pushed to double overtime by Ridgewood Public School. The green and white won the marathon outscoring their opponents 30-28. Ceinwyn Mathura who had a “relentless motor and a great jump shot” scored the game-winner.
The next game the Jaguars won in regulation beating Jack Callaghan 13-8 who they would face again in the title final. Then the Jaguars dominated Lady Mackenzie 22-6 in the semi-finals to earn a berth to the championship final against Jack Callaghan.
“After every win in the tournament our girls were not satisfied. We weren’t content with just winning one game or reaching the semi-finals. Our goal was to win the whole thing and once the final bell/buzzer went off the entire team jumped with joy and celebrated because we knew we had done it as a team. There was no ego on our squad. No one cared who scored as long as at the end of the game we got the W (the victory)” Dawson wrote.
Mathura “rebounded the ball exceptionally well. She started most games for our team.”
Brooklyn Sidsworth had a play named after her called Brooklyn which was a fast break play initiated off a rebound where she would throw an outlet pass to a guard at the mid-court.
“We scored many points off the fast break because of the Brooklyn pass. She also has a great shot in the paint and she is a fantastic rebounder of the basketball.”
“Grace [Graham] was our warrior down low in terms of boxing out the opponents scoring on the offensive glass and rebounding the basketball tirelessly.”
“At the start of the season Allie [Todd] was shy but by the end of the tournament she was always willing to do the dirty work fight for a loose ball and grab a rebound for the team.”
Taylor Horsley “could mix it up both inside and outside on the offensive end. She was very skilled at controlling the ball and not afraid to guard some of the fastest girls on the opposing team.”
Sophie Longo was a“vocal leader” and could “dribble score pass defend and rebound. All around skilled baller.”
Avery Horner “was like a gazelle on the basketball court.”
“She is an incredible offensive rebounder. She knows how to get open without the basketball. She was our go-to scorer this season and throughout the tournament.”
Campbell Itani-Smith “was one of our best scorers” and “was a super hard worker.”
“Paige [Hough] improved dramatically throughout the season …when her hands are up and she’s focused on defence she is very hard to score on.”
“Chloe [Billings] brought toughness to our team … She was super motivational throughout the time-outs and was always one of the girls who encouraged her teammates.”
“Emmerson [Wilson] was the shortest player on our team but one of the leaders … you should see her battling for rebounds. She may be small but man she is big when it comes to heart and determination.”
“Oceane [Harris] is a pure shooter … her nickname should be nothing but net because when she shoots it’s just so pure.”
“Liah [Gallant] guarded the best ball handlers and she was ferocious on defence … was the equivalent to the NBA’s Russell Westbrook … super competitive and the fastest player on our team … played with intensity and the most heart … the definition of a competitor.”