PCHS is the lone Niagara Sr. girls team to qualify for the Ontario championships
The Port Colborne Blue Bears have punched their ticket to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations senior girls A basketball championship next Thursday to Saturday in North Bay.
Playing Thursday in Dunnville at the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association A championships in Dunnville, the Blue Bears opened with a 51-34 triumph over Zone 1 champion Hamilton District Christian and then advanced to OFSAA with a close 43-39 triumph over the Zone 4 champion Smithville District Christian Storm.
Port Colborne is the only Niagara girls basketball team advancing to the OFSAA championships.
At the AA championships at Sir Winston Churchill, the E.L. Crossley Cyclones lost in the semifinals and the host Bulldogs lost in the finals. At the AAA championships at Westdale in Hamilton, A.N. Myer lost in the semifinals and Blessed Trinity lost in the final to Westdale.
“We are looking forward to seeing some great competition, because OFSAA always brings out the best from around the province, having the girls see some of the other teams from around Ontario and the different styles of basketball that are out there,” Port Colborne head coach Barclay Walker said.
The last time Port Colborne went to OFSAA was 2013 and, that year, the Blue Bears returned home with a record of 3-2.
Walker began to think he had a team that might be OFSAA-bound about mid-season and after the Tribune tournament.
“We were having some success playing some of the bigger schools and we were having close games against E.L. Crossley, Centennial and A.N. Myer,” he said. “When you are having close games with the double A and triple A schools, there is a possibility you might do well at single A.”
Port Colborne went 2-8 in Niagara Region High School Athletic Association regular season play, competing against A, AA and AAA schools. During the season, the Blue Bears lost 43-27 and 40-38 to Jean Vanier, the only other A school in Zone 3, but shocked the Lynx 46-31 in the Zone 3 A championship game.
Leading scorers for Port against Jean Vanier were Jacobi Oskam (13), Jordyn Goins (12), Maddie Coleman (10) and Jennifer Kozelj (8). Leading the way for Vanier were Isabelle Sinclair (11), Corrynn Parker (8), Jenna Vandenbosch (5) and Ariel Wendling (3).
“I think it was the girls’ determination,” Walker said, in explaining the win over Vanier. “We knew from past experience that we were going to have some close games with Jean Vanier.
“I think the first time we played them when they beat us by 16, that was a bit of a wakeup call and the next time when we lost to them by two, we knew that they were within our grasp.”
He describes his team as gritty and aggressive.
“When we are out there attacking and chasing the basketball, that when we really do well.”
This is the peak of the building cycle for the Port Colborne senior team and the squad will be in a rebuilding phase next year.
“When you look at our roster, the majority of our players are in Grade 12 and we only have three Grade 11s on the team,” Walker said. “We will lose that experience.”
The key returning piece is post player Coleman, a member of the Niagara Rangers under-19 travel team.
Walker is hoping his squad can put together a .500 record or better at OFSAA.
“Obviously being in a medal game would be nice, but I am hoping we do as best as we can,” Walker said. “If we come away with a winning record of any sort, I would be very happy.”
Top scorers for Port Colborne in the win over Hamilton District Christian were Coleman (16), Oskam (11), Sydney Vrbanac (11), Goins (6) and Kozelj (6).
Leading the way for the Blue Bears against Smithville Christian in the SOSSA final were Coleman (12), Goins (10), Kozelj (8), Oskam (7) and Reagan Grano (6).