St. Mike’s sweeps hoops fi­nals

War­riors ad­vance to WOSSAA in se­nior, ju­nior dou­ble-A di­vi­sions

The Beacon Herald - - SPORTS - CORY SMITH SPORTS ED­I­TOR

It was a St. Mike’s sweep in the Huron-Perth dou­ble-A basketball fi­nals.

The se­nior War­riors de­feated North­west­ern 54-35, while the ju­nior squad edged F.E. Madill 34-29. Both teams ad­vance to WOSSAA next week.

“I think our older girls ex­pe­ri­ence helped,” se­nior War­riors head coach Steve Go­forth said. “Even Joanna (Van De Walle) and Kathryn (Sim­mons), our Grade 11s, that’s al­ready their sec­ond (se­nior fi­nal). We have much more ex­pe­ri­ence in those big games right now.”

Jess Find­lay Robin­son had 17 points to lead the War­riors. Van De Walle added 12 points, Marissa Horen­berg had 10, and Mia Val­cke chipped in seven.

St. Mike’s led 14-10 af­ter the first quar­ter and held a 30-19 ad­van­tage at the half. It was a much cleaner game than the last time the teams met.

“I thought both teams were bet­ter to­day,” Go­forth said. “We shot the ball bet­ter to­day than the first time, es­pe­cially early. Jess made quite a few big threes, but (North­west­ern) shot the ball way bet­ter.”

The Huskies never looked com­fort­able in their first meet­ing, but that wasn’t an is­sue Fri­day at St. Mike’s. “We weren’t jit­tery. We weren’t scared,” head coach Rob James said. “We re­al­ized we can play with them, and that’s what they did. I thought it was closer than what the score was.”

North­west­ern, which fin­ished sec­ond in the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 9-1 record, ac­com­plished its goal of ad­vanc­ing to the con­fer­ence fi­nal. Most of the team was to­gether last sea­son when it won WOSSAA as ju­niors.

“We said at the be­gin­ning, this is not ju­nior, don’t ex­pect to roll through and then all of a sud­den we’re gonna be at WOSSAA and then on to OFSAA,” James said. “It takes a lit­tle while, and they real­ize that and they need to work a lit­tle bit on dif­fer­ent things.”

Most im­por­tantly, James would like to see his team at­tack the bas­ket more next sea­son, es­pe­cially when fight­ing for of­fen­sive re­bounds.

Ev­ery player is el­i­gi­ble to re­turn in 2018, so the Huskies could have one or two more chances at over­tak­ing St. Mike’s as the top se­nior girls team in the city. While cham­pi­onships would be nice, James wants to help build a sus­tain­able basketball pro­gram at North­west­ern that de­vel­ops good play­ers in ju­nior and moves them to se­nior. “That was our goal and I think we’re get­ting there.” Ta­tum James had a team-high 13 points for the Huskies. Paige Gof­far had six points, while Mor­gan Gof­far and Sophia Hawkins had five points apiece. St. Mike’s, mean­while, will com­pete for a Western On­tario ti­tle Thurs­day in Wood­stock. The War­riors – who ap­pear to have es­caped the in­jury bug that fol­lowed them all sea­son – face Park­side Col­le­giate in the semi­fi­nal. “They work hard,” Go­forth said of the Stam­ped­ers. “They’ve got two play­ers for sure we’ve re­ally got to fo­cus on. I think if we play our game we’ll have a good shot. It’s a winnable game.” In the ju­nior fi­nal, the War­riors went to Wing­ham and knocked off un­de­feated Madill.

“I’m very happy with the girls to­day,” head coach Tim O’Con­nor said. “It was a re­ally cool at­mos­phere in their gym, and Madill is a good team.”

Natasha Williams had 10 points for St. Mike’s, in­clud­ing a cou­ple clutch bas­kets late in the game to give the War­riors some breath­ing room. Williams was play­ing with four fouls in the fourth quar­ter.

“She was able to stay com­posed down the stretch,” O’Con­nor said.

Syd­ney Miller was tasked with shut­ting down the Mus­tangs’ best player.

“(Miller) had to fight through a lot of screens, which was new for her,” O’Con­nor said. “We haven’t worked on those as much as we maybe should have. She stayed fo­cused and took three point­ers out of (the Madill player’s) game, which was big for us.”

Alexis Willms, Abbey Meier­ing and Erin O’Con­nor were strong on the boards, and Madi­son Leyser – re­cov­er­ing from an in­jury – gave her team a boost off the bench in lim­ited min­utes.

Af­ter an 0-3 start, the War­riors fin­ished the sea­son 18-5, in­clud­ing tour­na­ments, and will try to stay hot Thurs­day at WOSSAA.

“If we can stay out of foul trou­ble we’re a tough de­fen­sive team,” coach O’Con­nor said.

In the se­nior girls sin­gle-A WOSSAA qual­i­fier, St. Marys squeaked past Mitchell 30-29.

PHO­TOS BY CORY SMITH/THE BEA­CON HER­ALD

North­west­ern’s Mor­gan Gof­far tries to chase down St. Mike’s Kathryn Sim­mons dur­ing the se­nior girls basketball fi­nal Fri­day at St. Mike’s. The War­riors won 54-35.

North­west­ern’s Ta­tum James looks for an open team­mate while guarded by St. Mike’s Jess Find­lay Robin­son.

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