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Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2019
Final record not the end goal in year one of OSBA play
by Randy Pascal

The success of the inaugural season in the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) for the Lo-Ellen Park Prep Knights was not going to be measured in wins and losses. Head coach Jen Bourget certainly knew that, and communicated it very clearly to her troops.

In that sense, a 1-6 mark is not the least bit of a concern for all those involved in this ground breaking venture for female basketball in Sudbury (and in fairness, two of the losses have been by a margin of just a single basket).

“Because I had watched it (the OSBA) closely, it's exactly what I expected,” said Bourget, following a 90-65 loss at the hands of a very impressive Capital Courts Academy crew from Ottawa last Saturday. “The competition is outstanding. I think the way that we have been competing as a team has been really good. I'm very pleased with our effort and our compete against these teams.”

Certainly, there is plenty of room for improvement. But at least part of the ability to remain grounded lies in the fact that the Knights graduate only one player from this roster when the time comes to reconvene for year two next September.

In the meantime, the areas requiring the most improvement have clearly been identified. “We're scoring a little bit more now, certainly our last two games, but defensively, we need to get a lot better,” said Bourget. “I think we are able to play at the pace of these other teams. The physicality is still something we need to work on, but we're a young team.”

“We have to compete against one another in practice, get after one another in practice. I remember back to our Laurentian days, that was expected, that was demanded. That's something that we've got to get better at.”

With the bulk of the Lo-Ellen roster having more or less cruised their way to back to back city and NOSSA banners, following that up with success at the OFSAA level, this new initiative has made it much easier for Bourget to deliver her message to a group of young women intent on playing at the next level.

“It's easy to push them because you have to get better, everyone is getting better,” she said. “You have to do the little extras. You have to do strength and conditioning, you have to balance everything, get in and do some individual work, watch game tape. If you're going to play at the next level, doing these types of things will not be a shock."

“For that in itself, this is a fantastic opportunity for these kids.”

That was exactly what Barrie native Kyanna Thompson had in mind when she opted to leave the JUEL (Junior Elite) of Ontario league, even if it meant making the move some three hours north. “Laurentian coach Jason Hurley approached me at one of my games last year and told me there was a spot open on this team,” said the 17 year old sole grade 12 student athlete on the team.

“We started talking to coach, came up here for a visit, practiced with the team, met the billet family. From there, everything felt safe.” Despite suiting up as a post the past few years, Thompson has transitioned to more of an outside player this winter. Thankfully, her versatility is but one of the assets she has brought along to her new home in the great white north.

“I can play all positions,” she said. “I think being able to play all positions is a positive thing and will help me, moving forward. It's a little different for me, being a little older, a little more experienced. I try and be the best leader that I can for them. And I have definitely gained strength in my shooting, which is a good thing.”

In fact, Thompson can easily identify areas where the Knights, as a team, have shown signs of improvement. “Our teamwork and our ability to push the ball up the court,” she stated. “The pace is a lot different here than what everyone was used to. Increasing our pace and just having patience, when we need to, is a big factor with our team.”

“I think it's improved a lot.”

Sixteen year old Emilie Lafond did not have to travel nearly as far as Thompson, though she did transfer from her grade nine year with the Horizon Aigles, heading to the south end basketball power and opening some doors in terms of her development as a player.

That progression has ramped up, exponentially, with the advent of OSBA play this year. “It's a faster pace, more physical, sending people to the boards, all the time, to get rebounds,” said Lafond. “I'm working on dealing with having double teams on me, and working on my perimeter game.”

“Sometimes, I am matched up against bigs that are bigger than me. I need to be able to expand my game on the outside, and be able to attack from there.” It all seemed to come together on Friday night as Lafond netted 25 points and Delaney Bourget kicked in 22 of her own, Lo-Ellen hitting the win column thanks to an 85-74 triumph over Vaughan Prep.

“I got into my groove early on in that game,” said Lafond. “I like to get started with a good basket, it just gets me going. But it was a good team effort. We were all distributing the ball well, we were all contributing. If I got double teamed, I was able to find the open man.”

The Knights are on the road this weekend, battling Durham Elite on Friday and Father John Redmond on Saturday before returning to Sudbury to play host to the Caledon Basketball Academy on Sunday (December 9th) at 1:00 p.m. at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School.

The balance of the 2018-2019 edition of the Lo-Ellen Prep Knights features Aneisha Rismond, Grace Smrke, Mireille DiMaio, Abby Frick, Dylann Mazzuchin, Sami Dunlop, Shannon Clarke and Claudia Pellerin. Joining Bourget on the team staff are assistant coaches Dawn Russell and Bill Gordon.

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