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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
Knights anxious to meet a whole new set of opponents
by Randy Pascal

The Lo-Ellen Park Knights senior girls basketball team are anxious to put their new "anybody but Macdonald Cartier" mindset to good use one more time, before calling it a season.

Please do not misunderstand the very youthful south end squad. It's not that they detest or do not respect their local rival. It's just that enough is enough.

"We had played Macdonald Cartier so many times before (five, in all, including in the city final)," noted Kate Dahmer, the only grade 12 athlete on the roster. "We knew what they were like, and that they were bigger and more experienced than us."

"Walking away from that game (city final), we knew that they deserved it, that they worked harder than us. It was like a fresh start going to NOSSA. These were teams that we had never played before. Five games against Mac Jack was a lot."

With fresh opposition, the Knights rose to the challenge, laying claim to the "AA" NOSSA Senior Girls Basketball banner thanks to a 61-49 win over the Korah Colts in Sault Ste Marie, earning a berth in the OFSAA "AA" Girls Basketball Championship in the process.

Heading to the provincial high school showdown in London, the Lo-Ellen girls find themselves in a field of 18 teams, none of which are monikered as the Panthères.

It's just the latest step in an evolution that took a dramatically different turn, less than a year ago, when Lo-Ellen was awarded a prep entry into the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association.

This is a very young team, with talent on the roster from grades nine through twelve, many of whom aspire, some day, to suit up with the Lo-Ellen Knights Prep squad. It is also a team that has come together nicely in this ever-shifting local basketball landscape.

"We had our ups and downs this year," noted head coach Lisa Carruthers. "We've had our really bad games and our moments of brilliance. It all came to fruition in that last game at NOSSA. Everything that we've been working on all year, they finally just put it all together."

Ranked ninth heading into play on Thursday, the Knights return only one player (Dahmer) from the crew that captured bronze at OFSAA last November. Relative to most of the other teams they will face later this week, the Knights are both undersized and less experienced.

"We are very small, we struggle against bigs," acknowledged Carruthers. "If we can deny and we can put pressure, we can win some games. That's what it came down to in the end." For her part, Dahmer is both the only player on the roster with previous OFSAA experience, and the only graduating senior.

"Looking at who was playing and the age of our group, I was kind of thinking that this would be a good chance to try and lead the team as best as I could," she said. "I see a lot of young girls on this team with a lot of potential, and I can see them growing up and leading this team as well in the future."

In fact, even the leadership role is being shared, despite the wide spectrum of ages in the group. "I feel in my element on the court, and I've gotten so comfortable so quickly with these girls," said Dahmer. "They know what they're doing on the court, even if they are young."

"Off the court, it's not just me talking. I'm never the only leader. All of the girls pitch in and motivate the group as a whole." Kyra Mallory is but one of several younger players being thrust into a role that is not exactly in the mold of ones she has grown accustomed to.

"Normally I would play as a shooting guard, a slashing guard," she explained. "But with this team, I'm a post." At 5'6", that's no easy assignment for the 15 year old grade 10 talent with one year of junior ball under her belt.

"I just try and play smart," said Mallory. "Instead of driving and just getting stuffed, I will think about it, maybe shoot or pass, try and draw out the post on the other team." When all is said and done, she views the experience as a positive one.

"It's a good change," she stated. "I kind of want to play everywhere so that I get used to it. I can be a well rounded player - but it was very different than what I was used to."

The Knights will open play on Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m., tipping off against the Birchmount Park Panthers from Toronto.

The remainder of the 2018 NOSSA championship squad features Arianna Ghorbani, Sophie Moore, Cassandra Yurich, Charlotte Church, Heidi Lamothe, Elliot Tissot van Patot, Grace Tressider, Giulia Wilson, Katrina Thai, Isabel Maki, Maike Purdon and Athena Florentis.

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