Opponents had better ready themselves for a dose of Sudbury double trouble as they prepare to face the Team Ontario U17 Girls basketball squad later this summer. Not one but two local products have cracked the final 12 player roster, with both Emilie Lafond and Delaney Bourget notified of the honour this past Sunday evening.
The talented hardcourt tandem are teammates with the Lo-Ellen Park Prep Knights, competing for the first time in the OSBA (Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association) last year, with both student athletes preparing to enter grade 12 in the fall.
And while some of those named to Team Ontario have been mainstays, consistently ranked among the very best in the province over the years, this marks the first such accomplishment for both Lafond and Bourget.
"Making this team was always a goal of mine, so I never let that slip away, kept chasing it year after year," said Bourget, a sharp-shooting guard blessed with a deft touch from three point range.
"Knowing this was my last opportunity, because this is the oldest age for the provincial team, I think made me really focused, really confident this year. I'm just so excited that it finally happened."
"I'm so excited," echoed Lafond, who celebrated her 17th birthday just last month. "I'm excited for this because it will show me that next level of basketball, show me what is coming. Just being exposed to all of the scouts, the different players, the different coaches, it's just going to be an awesome experience."
If Bourget is to earn her playing time based largely on her defensive tenacity and her offensive talent beyond the arc, Lafond will stand in stark contrast, an absolute warrior in the paint, armed with outstanding natural instincts that complement her role.
"I find with rebounding, I'm pretty good on my timing," said Lafond. "I get position early and I track the ball when it's in the air. As soon as the shot goes up, I'm preparing myself and charging to go get it. I still want to work on getting that early work done, even before the shot goes up."
"If I am in good post position, it's easy to just duck in and get the rebound."
Through a series of training camp workouts and lead-in tournaments, provincial team coaches were provided ample time for assessment, with every single athlete in attendance keenly aware of exactly what was on the line.
"You know that every chance you get, you have to prove yourself," said Bourget. "It's still shooting for me, mostly, but I would say that one of the most important things for me is fitting in with the style of play, aggressive, fast-paced."
"They really focused on defence, and I really tried to apply all of the feedback I was receiving from the coaches. Having a chance to play against these amazing players, you really need to step up defensively in order to gain minutes."
"You can't play if you're a liability on defence. I'm being challenged by the coaching staff to improve defensively, and I think I have, but I'm excited to keep building on that."
There is precious little time to make all of the necessary travel plans. Just days after the team roster announcement, the group will reconvene this week in Port Perry, preparing for a big time Showcase tournament this coming weekend in Washington, D.C.
From there, it's time for a little more fine-tuning as Ontario will enter nationals in Victoria (B.C.) next month as one of the pre-tournament favourites, just as has been the case for pretty much every other version of this team to come before.
"It's going to be really tough competition," stated Lafond. "Washington should be a lot of the top AAU teams, a lot of the top players from the different states in the United States. This will really push me to be able to make quick decisions, on the spot."
"We'll be playing with and against the best rebounders, the best scorers, the best defenders. That will help me develop my overall game, to take everything I have learned from all of these tournaments and practice sessions and work it into my own game."