The Sudbury U14 Jam Girls just keep raising the bar in their search for greater competition.
And if you're going to test yourself against the high-school elite, it's likely not a bad idea to go toe to toe with the defending OFSAA "A" Girls Basketball champions.
Roughly a month after claiming championship honours in the junior girls division in the the Laurentian University tournament, the Jam U14 girls traveled to Timmins, site of the Sister Fay Tournament of Excellence hosted by O'Gorman High School.
Their ability to remain competitive against senior high-school opponents was discernable from the start, the Sudbury girls unfazed by a large and noisy home crowd, jumping out to a 30-point lead and beating the Roland Michener Rebels 50-35.
The Jam was paced by strong inside play from Sophie Alexander and Chelsey Gallipeau, setting the stage for a game two match-up with the Algonquin Barons from North Bay. This one was no contest as the Sudbury crew rode the offensive wizardry of Izzy McKague and Savannah Swords, making shots from all angles, combined with the defensive excellence of Mia Yurich and Olivia Tissot to victory.
The Jam were well aware that a semi-final battle with the favoured Thériault Flammes would entail a much greater challenge, one for which they were apparently quite well prepared.
With Syla Swords topping all scorers with a 24-point effort and Bree Bourget knocking down three baskets from beyond the arc, the Jam pulled away in the second half, posting a 45-28 victory to advance to the finals.
Their trademark suffocating defence was led by a one-two punch of Mathilde Fleury and Mahtressa Paris, while Ella Bourget closed out the game for the winners. Their reward, if you want to call it that, was a date opposite the 2018 provincial "A" high school champs, as the Sudbury grade eight crew prepare to face the powerful O'Gorman Knights.
A supportive capacity crowd was in for a treat as the experienced Knights tipped off against the Jam, the youngsters displaying maturity beyond their years. Leading 19-16 after a quarter of play, the Sudbury squad weathered a second period O'Gorman run, as the Knights picked up the tempo, securing a three point advantage at the break.
Lead changes were constant in the second half, though the momentum began favouring the home side, with the Timmins reps building a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter. Regrouping, the Jam countered, undaunted by their surroundings and cutting the lead to just four, with less than four minutes to play.
It was time for O'Gorman to display the makings of a championship team and they did just that, carving out a 56-47 triumph in the end as Ally Burke led the Knights with 23 points.
Kami Dreger was outstanding in defeat, both offensively and defensively, with Syla Swords lighting up O'Gorman for 26 points and Bree Bourget sinking another quartet of three point baskets for the Jam.
Both Bourget and Swords were named to the all star team, joining Burke as well as her O'Gorman teammate and tournament MVP Ava Fregonese. While O'Gorman sets their sights on defending their OFSAA "A" championship, the JAM will work on a repeat of their own, having claimed the banner in the Ontario Basketball Elite League (OBLX) in 2018-2019.