Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League
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The thrill of NOSSA championships abounds

“Winning a city championship, coming to NOSSA and winning, going to OFSAA next week, this is a huge deal for us.”

Superior Heights Steelhawks' grade 10 basketball sensation Hannah Heimonen summarized, quite nicely, the emotional impact of the series of NOSSA championships that were contested over the course of the past five days or so, shortly after her team completed the trilogy with a 58-54 win over the Lo-Ellen Park Knights Saturday night.

The feeling is at least somewhat consistent from one team to the next, whether you are the Lasalle Lancers senior boys volleyball team, which will make their sixth straight appearance at OFSAA later this week, or the upstart Superior Heights Steelhawks.

“We never expected this at all,” said Heimonen, who exploded for 22 points in the NOSSA “AA/AAA” final at Lo-Ellen, including 14 points in the second half alone. “Our senior girls team at our school had never even won a city championship before.”

In bettering that by one at the NOSSA level, the Steelhawks managed to slip past both the Lasalle Lancers and the Knights, the two schools who have combined to capture six of the past seven city championships in Sudbury. “We really needed to provide help on defence. We needed to talk to each other, move our feet,” said Heimonen.

“They (Lo-Ellen) are a really great three-point shooting team, so we needed to be up on them and know that our teammates were there to help if they somehow blew by us.” Taryn Green chipped in with 13 points for the winners while Sophia Moore (13), Izzy Maki (12), Elliot Tissot (12) and Arianna Ghorbani (9) countered for the Knights.

By virtue of their win, Superior Heights claims the NOSSA “AA” crown and will travel to Kingsville for OFSAA, while coach Lisa Carruthers and the Knights represent the north at the “AAA” provincials in Mississauga. The junior banner also went to Sault Ste Marie as the St Mary’s Knights edged the Lasalle Lancers 56-53.

Meanwhile, the Macdonald-Cartier Panthères capitalized on home court advantage to earn a fourth straight trip to OFSAA, downing the Espanola Spartans in the final, 45-24. The Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes took the NOSSA junior “A” title with a win over the Lockerby Vikings.

In Blind River, the W.C. Eaket Secondary School Lions garnered NOSSA “B” gold medals after beating Mattawa (a combined team of F.J. McElligott SS and E.S.C. Elisabeth-Bruyère) 35-25 in the championship affair.

Riley Hummel led the Lions with ten points, after teammate Mya Smith showed the way in two previous games, while Kelora Huard replied with ten points as well, in a losing cause. W.C. Eaket is coached by former Lasalle Lancer and Laurentian Voyageur Amanda (McDonald) Dunbar.

Rounding out the W.C Eaket roster were Avah Olsen, Karli Shamas, Leylaan Los, Ashley Kimpel and Hailey Rivett. It was these same NOSSA “B” bragging rights that were the end goal for the Sacré-Coeur Griffons boys volleyball team, who outlasted the Champlain Requins 17-25, 26-24, 15-25, 25-23, 15-11 in a Challenge Match last week, moving on to sweep past Mattawa 25-17, 25-22, 25-12 in NOSSA playdowns just a few days later.

After competing in the Division I ranks in Sudbury this year, the Griffons had a tougher time just holding off the Division II champs from Champlain, than they would securing a NOSSA banner. “There was a lack of energy there, for sure, a real lack of energy on our side,” noted 17 year-old middle Jacob Paradis. “Once we started doing well, the energy built up. That last little bit, we went on a roll and it was just emotion.”

In a sense, there was arguably more pressure on Sacré-Coeur simply to ensure the SDSSAA berth versus the next step in Blind River a few days later. “We knew that they (Champlain) were coming in with confidence, we knew that they were coming out to win,” said Paradis. “I don’t know about the rest of our team, but for me personally, there was a little bit of a standard that we had to kind of meet, because we are in the “A” Division.”

Joining Paradis on the crew that are ineligible to pursue an OFSAA title (only competed in “A”, “AA” or “AAA” brackets) were Bradley Bertrand, Joshua Blake, Tylor Davidson, Jacob Démoré, Rily Dupuis, Riley Landry, Matthew Moroso and Samuel Pitre.

In the end, SDSSAA representatives would go four for four in the NOSSA boys volleyball settings, with the Horizon Aigles (A), Lasalle Lancers (AA) and Lo-Ellen Park Knights (AAA) all now preparing to face the best in their school size in Ontario.

“Our mindset, at the beginning of the year, was to go to OFSAA this year,” acknowledged Alex Léger from Horizon. “We kept working towards that goal. It’s amazing. We were just so happy when we won, we had chills.”

For the Aigles, this is the first time since 2008 that the boys volleyball team will compete at OFSAA, an honour they earned thanks to a hard fought four set victory over the Franco Cité Patriotes from Sturgeon Falls.

“We’re becoming a volleyball school,” acknowledged Leger. “Players are seeing that, they want to come to Horizon. Our guys are starting to play Chill (club volleyball). Monsieur (Patrick) Gervais has done a lot of work for our volleyball program.”

The junior Aigles also made it to the finals before being defeated by the Lockerby Vikings in an exciting affair. East of Sudbury in North Bay, the Lasalle Lancers continued to roll, downing both the Widdifield Wildcats (2-0) and Chippewa Raiders (2-0), before stopping the Raiders a second time in the final, 25-17, 25-14, 25-19.

Finally, over at Lo-Ellen, where only two teams opted to bump up for the “AAA” junior and senior NOSSA championship encounters, it would be a sweep for the Knights. The senior Lo-Ellen crew will make a return trip to OFSAA thanks to a 25-16, 25-18, 25-16 win over the St Joseph Scollard Hall Bears, while the junior Knights took down the Notre-Dame Alouettes, 25-15, 25-9, 25-18.

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