Two rival Simcoe County senior girls’ basketball teams duked it out for the Georgian Bay Secondary School Association (GBSSA) championship Wednesday night in Barrie.
The Orillia Secondary School (OSS) Nighthawks spoiled the St. Joan of Arc Catholic School (JOA) Knights' undefeated season, as the visitors soared to a 63-41 win that crowned them GBSSA champions for the second year in a row.
The game went back and forth from tip off until the buzzer sounded for the end of the first quarter. Both squads showed they were deserving of playing in the championship final, and the score was close at 21-13 in favour of the visiting Nighthawks.
In the second quarter, the Nighthawks were able to feed off the energy of their fans, who came from Orillia to make up one-third of those who attended Wednesday’s showdown in Barrie.
The Knights stopped trading blows with OSS and started to fall behind, only managing five points in the second quarter. The home team trailed by 15 going into the locker room at halftime.
JOA stormed back in the third quarter with a three-pointer by Kory Hook right out of the gate, and then, on the Knights next possession, she added a layup for two more points. Hook led her team on the score sheet, netting 12 points in the game.
The Knights kept playing impressive basketball in the third quarter, but the Nighthawks kept responding to every JOA basket with one of their own.
The momentum shifted drastically late in the third quarter when Nighthawk Amy Hagman drained a three-pointer for her squad. She would finish the night as the game's highest scorer with 18 points.
As the game wore on, the visiting OSS team dominated and wore out the Knights with brick wall defence and clutch shooting from Ally Smith who registered 15 points in the game.
With the impressive victory, the Nighthawks earned gold around their necks, and a shot at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association (OFSAA) AAA championship tournament in Mississauga, which tips off next Thursday.
Ally Smith is now a two-time GBSSA champion as last year she won with the junior team. She says this year’s championship team faced a little more adversity.
“A lot of the girls on this team are new, some of us are Grade 10s, so we knew we were going to have to work really hard to get this win,” said the Grade 10, Smith.
Hard work and tough practices were keys to the championship run for the Nighthawks, but Smith also attributes this year's success to their fan base who were in attendance at Wednesday's game.
“They have been at all our home games, they were there for the Blackball tournament, and if it wasn’t for their support and energy I’m not sure we would have been able to pull it out,” she said.
The loss for the Knights was their first of the season. They won four tournaments this season and were Catholic School Athletics of Simcoe County champions.
Despite losing their opportunity at the ultimate goal to compete at OFSAA, head coach Katerina Rosar says it was a successful season.
“The girls bought into everything I said, they never slacked, they were always in the gym shooting and they always wanted to get better,” Rosar said after the defeat.
“I can’t be upset with them. They are an amazing group of girls and I love each and every one of them. I am so proud.”
But only one team moves on and the Nighthawks will now be preparing for one more run at another championship banner.