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Sunday, May. 19, 2019
Girls Summer Games basketball team an energetic crew
by Randy Pascal

The recent Ontario Summer Games experience for the Team North Girls Basketball crew proved to be a fun and memorable adventure, as much for the young woman guiding the charge as for the precocious teens under her watch in London.

An assistant coach with the Nipissing Lakers varsity women's basketball team in North Bay, Rachel Van Woezik took the plunge into the head coaching fraternity with this summer assignment, understanding the need for a long-term focus with regards to her role in the sport.

"Our head coach at Nipissing, Katie Hamilton, suggested that doing the Summer Games would be a really good experience for me, a good age group to work with at this time," noted the 23 year-old former member of the Lakers, whose OUA career was cut short by a pair of ACL injuries in recent years.

"To be honest, I think I found moving from assistant coach to head coach more difficult than moving from player to coach. Just knowing my personality, I had a little bit of coach in me, even when I was a player. But actually being the person who is concerned with practice and calling the shots was quite different for me."

Bringing together a 15U girls team that included talent from Huntsville, Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, North Bay and Sudbury would require making the most of their limited time together. Thankfully, Van Woezik was able to dive into the task at hand while remaining true to her own core philosophies on coaching.

"There was not a lot of emphasis on outcome, at all, this summer," she said. "That's kind of the way the program is designed through Basketball Ontario, but it's also the way I think I will always coach. I'm very much more process and development over outcome."

"I believe the outcome will take care of itself, so we focused on skill development and team concepts of spacing, proper motion offense, help defense." If all of this sounds like the set-up for the tale of a team that had trouble remaining competitive, one could not be more wrong.

Sure, the start featured a couple of bumps on the road, as Team North dropped their first two outings to Niagara (51-39) and Capital (54-34) regions. Things really came together for Van Woezik and company in their final pool game, a 49-23 victory over Team St Clair.

Pitted against the third place team in an opposite pool for their OSG finale, the North prevailed by the thinnest of margins, edging Central East South 41-40. "This is going to sound kind of cheesy, but I really loved the girls' energy," said Van Woezik.

"For me, that's something that we can always control. Whether we were down by fifteen in a game, or up by one or twenty, they gave me 100% effort, all of the time. It was really fun and easy to coach them because of that," added the native of Almonte (Ontario).

While key contributions ranged right across the roster, Van Woezik noted that the offensive punch for her group was spearheaded, more often than not, by the Sudbury tandem of Sophie Moore and Elliot Tissot van Patot.

That said, the highlight one point win against Central East South was driven by the fourth quarter efforts of both Laine (Elaina) Allen and Charlotte Church of Sudbury, both young ladies cranking their game up a notch in the nip and tuck battle to the finish.

Remaining Sudburians on the Summer Games roster included Maike Purdoh, Gabrielle Tiango and Ali Bertrim. The balance of the team dotted the Northern Ontario map, as Halle Potvin (Huntsville), Sienna Hummel (Trout Creek/North Bay), Emily Sanzo (Thunder Bay), Keira Kent (Sault Ste Marie) and Dominique Belanger (Timmins) all enjoyed their trek to London for the provincial multi-sport bi-annual event.

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