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Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
T. Michael Hennessy, Law Office
Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2018
Run and jump the name of the game at Lo-Ellen
by Randy Pascal

The Lo-Ellen Park Knights senior girls basketball team are ready to unleash their up-tempo "in your face" defence on opponents once again this year.

While many a young basketball team loves to run the court when it comes to creating offensive opportunities, the Knights like to build off a defensive commitment that features that same degree of intensity.

"Last year, we really worked on "run and jump", a lot of trapping on the court and a lot of pressure - but it wasn't as intense as it is this year," noted grade 11 veteran Steffi Leers. "Now, we're still really pushing for the run and jump, but we want to make teams scramble, be up in their face, and run, run, run."

The early signs are positive for the defending city champions and OFSAA bronze medal winners, the majority of which are back as the team opened their tournament schedule at the 2017 UWO Purple & White Invitational Tournament in London.

The Knights reeled off three straight wins in capturing their "regional" bracket before dropping a 46-37 decision to the St Thomas More Knights from Hamilton. The latter crew would go on to win it all, besting the St Joseph's College Bears from Toronto 53-45.

Facing their southwestern Ontario rivals in the form of the Wallaceburg Tartans in game one, coach Jennifer Bourget unleashed the depth of her squad, with ten different players hitting the scroresheet in a 46-36 triumph.

Kate Dahmer topped the charts with eight points, with freshman Claudia Pellerin adding six. The locals seemed to pick up even more steam in game two, outscoring the St John's College Green Eagles from Brantford 47-24, as Maria Best showed the way with nine points, scoring in each and every quarter.

Taylin Legault (6), Delaney Bourget (5) and Pellerin (5) also chipped in with key baskets as the Knights built up a 23-12 lead at the half, mirroring that performance in the final two quarters.

Even a matchup with the hometown Mother Theresa Spartans could not slow down the Lo-Ellen express, recording an impressive 62-27 victory in their regional final. Dahmer exploded with a 15 point performance, including 10 in the third quarter alone, while Leers (11), Legault (9), Pellerin (8) and Dylann Mazzuchin (7) all contributed nicely.

With both Maria Best and Jayme Anderson sidelined with injuries, the Knights were just a slight step behind the St Thomas More powerhouse come the Sunday semi-final, as only Pellerin (10), Bourget (9), Mazzuchin (7), Dimaio (6) and Legault (5) were able to drop baskets for Lo-Ellen in the loss. Bourget and Mazzuchin were both named to the tournament all-star team.

Despite the setback, there is no lack of optimism as the Knights take run at a second consecutive OFSAA medal, all while moving from the "A" ranks to the "AA" circuit this year. "We were a really young team last year, and we had only one girl leave this year," noted Dahmer, also in grade 11.

"I feel like we have grown so much, playing together for a second year. I think that chemistry will show on the court. Offensively, we're getting faster and we're becoming better shooters. We're now able to run the ball in transition much better, and attack the basket as well."

As much as the Lo-Ellen girls are recognized for their ability to shoot the ball, no team can succeed without a presence in the paint, one area of the game where Dahmer takes as much pride as anyone.

"I'm really into rebounding, despite my height," she stated. "It's the will to want the ball that is key. You really have to focus on that determination, especially when you're going up against people who are taller than you."

"You have to get in front of them and be just as aggressive as they are. Taller people sometimes have a tendency not to jump, just because they already have the height." It is evident, in talking with any of the players, that the Knights are focused on perpetual growth.

For her part, Steffi Leers acknowledges that she is clearly a different player than the one which helped lead MacLeod Public School to a Rainbow Board title in April of 2015.

"I was more of a shooting guard back in grade eight," she said. "Over the years, I've kind of developed into more of a slashing and driving guard. I'm kind of more balanced now." Clearly the class of the local SDSSAA loop, coach Bourget and the Knights have resorted to finding creative manners to push each other.

We're really used to scrimmaging against ourselves, which is sometimes the best competition," said Leers. In her particular case, that ideal in house matchup often comes courtesy of Maria Best.

"We're really similar in a lot of ways," stated Leers. "I definitely like guarding her the most. She kind of thinks like me, but she's hard to guard with those crazy long arms. She keeps you always guessing and on your toes."

Rounding out the 2017 edition of the Lo-Ellen senior girls basketball team are Shannon Clarke and Sami Dunlop-Bassett.

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