St. Mike’s sweeps hoops finals
Warriors advance to WOSSAA in senior, junior double-A divisions
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.
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.