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A trio of Sudbury teams heading to OFSAA

There will be at least three SDSSAA teams representing Sudbury and area hopes at OFSAA basketball and volleyball championships in early March.

This is hardly newsworthy.

Of the six NOSSA banners that are typically up for grabs in boys basketball and girls volleyball, local contingents will usually secure around half, as they battle it out with the best from Sault Ste Marie and North Bay, and all points in between.

But with the current unease within the education system in Ontario, we've been dealing with much less clarity than would normally be the case at this time of year.

While three berths are sown up, for sure, the number could grow to four, with more provincial potential still on the horizon for curling, wrestling and hockey. Such is the case when events that are normally contested with the same two to three day window are now bounced around as host venues across the north deal with the possible repercussions of labour unrest.

Thankfully, for the time being in Sudbury, it's all hands on deck, with a number of very deserving athletes rewarded for their efforts with a journey to the all-Ontario championships.

For the College Notre-Dame Alouettes senior girls volleyball crew, all of whom will attend OFSAA for the very first time, the emotion of it all was too much to contain, tears flowing freely as the Als captured the NOSSA "A" banner with a 26-16, 18-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-13 triumph over the Algonquin Barons.

"Going in, I knew that it was going to be us and Algonquin," admitted CND head coach Denny Chicoine. "I didn't know that it was going to be that tight a final game. I was hoping for three quick sets and then go home."

That would not happen, not by a long-shot, at least partially due to home court advantage.

"They had a big crowd and they came out strong," noted Chicoine. "Their passing was a lot better (than when we played them earlier this year) and they were really picking their spots when hitting. Algonquin stepped it up and really challenged us."

Trailing two sets to one, in a raucous unfriendly environment, the Notre-Dame girls came through when they needed to most. "Our heads stayed up, we stayed focused, and we kept our heads in the game," said Chicoine. "They kept it together, which was really awesome to see."

"Eventually, they started adapting to the way that they (Algonquin) were playing."

The NOSSA "A" girls volleyball championship team includes Kalysta Burnett, Alexia Lemay-Evans, Zoe Venne, Brielle Chicoine, Josee Beauchamp, Alyssa Cayen, Zoe Legault, Talia Eusepi, Haven Fournier, Katia Legros, Emma Lapointe and Emma Bissonette.

Still in North Bay, the Lasalle Lancers boys basketball team were able to silence the crowd, almost from the opening tip-off. The local powerhouse, who claimed their fourth consecutive city title last week, with relative ease, looked equally as strong in day one competition on Monday, upending the Franco Cite Patriotes (Sturgeon Falls) 78-29 and besting the Superior Heights Steelhawks (Sault Ste Marie) 55-34.

While the semi-final opposite the Lo-Ellen Park Knights remained close through to half-time, the Lancers holding on to a five point lead at the break, the senior-laden crew would pull away in the final two quarters, recording a comfortable 63-40 victory over their Sudbury rivals.

Facing Superior Heights in the final, the Lasalle lads bolted from the gates as twins Brennan and Liam LaPierre and Noah Carpino combined for five three-point baskets in the first quarter alone, the Lancers building an 18-8 lead after eight minutes and cruising to a 56-40 win over the Steelhawks.

In junior play in North Bay, the Lo-Ellen Park Knights claimed gold, stopping the Algonquin Barons 64-45, as Abdi Koulbo (20) and Charlie Hennessy (20) both hit double digits, with Dax Mazzuchin ever so close with nine.

Joining Notre-Dame and Lasalle in heading to OFSAA competition between March 9th and the 11th are the Lo-Ellen Park Knights senior girls volleyball team. Despite dropping a straight set NOSSA "AA" final to the Widdifield Wildcats from North Bay, the city champs would garner the second NOSSA entry to provincials in Kingsville, by virtue of the region being awarded an extra slot this year.

"Going into the tournament, we knew it was going to be tough," admitted Lo-Ellen co-coach Sheldon Root. "We played them in the round robin, and with our spot in the final guaranteed, we explored the rotation and made the game plan for the finals. But we had a hard time, mentally, being able to execute our plan."

"Widdifield was just a little bit more polished in how they strategically planned for the game and picked apart a couple of our players on serve receive," Root added. That said, he was thankful for the chance to go toe to toe with a school that has produced many a memorable volleyball team, especially with OFSAA less than two weeks away.

"One of the things I have always believed is that it benefits any athlete to be playing better ball, facing tougher competition," stated Root. "We didn't get to do a lot of additional tournaments this year, and the tournaments that we did were mostly local. The games against Widdifield allowed us to expose ourselves to better ball."

The NOSSA "A" Boys Basketball playdowns kicked off the festivities, taking place over the course of the weekend in Sault Ste Marie. In senior play, the White Pines Wolverines represented the host city with pride, stopping the College Notre Dame Alouettes 69-38, with CND also coming up just a little short in the junior gold medal affair, beaten 61-56 by the Elliot Lake Atoms.

Still to be decided is the NOSSA "AAA" Girls Volleyball crown, with the single day tournament taking place Wednesday in North Bay. Meanwhile, NOSSA curling action continues into day two on Wednesday in Sault Ste Marie, with the Lasalle girls and the Notre-Dame and Lo-Ellen boys all boasting marks of 2-0 with three draws in the books.

On the slopes, Vince Palladino (Jr) of St Benedict Catholic Secondary School finished fourth in the day 1 slalom event of the OFSAA Alpine Ski Championships at Osler Bluff Ski Club, his combined time of 1:18.45 less than two seconds back of bronze medal winner Alex Wroe (Renfrew Collegiate Institute).

Day 2 results had not yet been posted, as of print deadline, with the venue set to play host to the OFSAA Snowboarding Festival later this week. The Sudbury contingent features athletes from Bishop Carter (Curtis Kenyon, McKenna Kydd), CND (Braeden Morin, Evan Volpini, Julien Brunette, Roxanne Doucet), Lasalle (Mackenzie Roberts, Nila Allen, Trinity Audette, Mercedes Marlok, Macy Allen), Lively (Aidan Levesque), Lo-Ellen (Laydon Bursey, Ethan Rogers, Jaden Martin, Carson Bronicheski, Kyle Dessureault, Nova Hutchings), Lockerby (Jessica Severinac, Emma Carniello, Naomi Mitoma) and St Charles College (Chris Kord, Tyler Scott, Jonathon Sitko, Alexander Thibodeau).

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