On May 11, 2014, Hamilton Transway won the 2014 JUEL League Championship Finals, by defeating the Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) Lightning by a score of 84-63.
“You really could have written it any better,” said Transway Head Coach, Nate McKibbon. “The kids played fantastic all year, but they really played their best basketball towards the end and really left no doubt that they’ve been the top team in the province. Not only this year, but for a long time at their age group.”
Leaving no doubt with the way that they played this weekend is a bit of an understatement. With their supporters wielding signs and chanting ‘We The Red’ (a spin on the Raptors’ playoff slogan: ‘We The North’), Hamilton Transway team blew through their competition throughout the weekend long JUEL (U19) season ending Championship, with the closest margin of victory over their four games, a hefty 18 points.
The game, played at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, was an emotional one as this group of Transway girls are in their final rep game in this their graduating year, after various parts of the team being assembled beginning in their second Grade. A run that would see them be the benchmark in the province of Ontario and end with this, their seventh straight Ontario Provincial title.
In coming out hard and dictating the pace game, Transway as a team sent a message with the first blow. It has been a mantra of theirs for years, and this Finals was no different. Right from opening tip, to their first basket 5 seconds later, Transway set the tone early.
“We like to be aggressive against anyone. We don’t have as much size as the other teams do, but I think athletically, we’re as good as anyone in the province,” said McKibbon. “We like to put pressure. We like to get up and down. And especially from the start of the game to set tempo.”
Transway lead early and never relinquished the lead. Their lead was up in the teens before their Kitchener-Waterloo opponents closed out the first quarter on a run to bring the score within a 27-18 striking distance.
But, before a full momentum shift could take place, there was Transway back at work again getting into passing lanes, forcing turnovers and making the Lightning earn each and every bucket they scored.
And on the offence end, they converted their opportunities both around the rim and from long range running the score up to a healthy 49-31 lead they would maintain for the rest of the game.
The usual Transway plan of attack was in play. The tactic of putting pressure on their opposing KW Guards was working, to no surprise of Transway Assistant Coach Richard Nurse.
“We really don’t change. Everyone knows what were doing. We’re a high pressure, high tempo team. People know what were doing,” said a confident, an unapologetic Nurse.
Although KW did well to make it to the Finals of this very tough JUEL league, Lightning Head Coach was honest about his teams performance against a juggernaut of an opponent.
“Transway is the best team in JUEL. They proved it throughout the year, and they proved it again today,” conceded Nickel, who appeared to have come to terms with losing to a team that over the 100+ times they have played in the last four seasons at the highest level in Canada for their age group, have not lost 10 times.
“Their level of talent, the length of time they’ve been together and how hard they play…I think we were in tough today, and it showed,” he said respecting his worthy foe.
As many of the summaries of games played by this Transway team goes, all of weapons, spearheaded by their tough-nosed on court leader played at a very high level on both sides of the ball.
It caused problems on the defensive end for the Lightning, and did not lend itself too well to on the other end of the floor either.
“So much of the credit for our undoing today goes to Transway. Kia came to play. Today she shot the ball extremely well. And their other kids shot the ball really well. We were less than 50% from the foul line and were stagnant of offence. You put that together and there you go.”
In a perfect tribute to the legacy this team has put together throughout their years together, Coach Nurse believes this weekend, and this Championship was a fitting culmination way to cement their mark on Ontario girls basketball.
“The kids came into this tournament as their last tournament as their last, and there’s only being one returning player. So, it was something that they wanted,”said Nurse.
“They weren’t playing for themselves. They weren’t playing for their parents. They weren’t playing for me. They were playing for this group that has been together for a while.”
Now that the final chapter has been written about this team on the court, and no more worries about keeping any secrets, the question just had to be asked of Nurse:
Looking back over the years, what would you say is the formula for the success of this team?
“Hard work. Commitment. Getting after it everyday and competing, not taking anything for granted,” said Nurse about the keys to building this winner of a team.
“Where we come from, it’s work! We’re not going to baby you. We’re going to make you accountable. If you’re not accountable, you’re not going to be able to play in our system.”
So said, so done.
Game Scoring Leaders
Hamilton Transway: Kia Nurse – 34 points, 8 rebounds; Christina Buttenham – 19 points (9/12 FGs), 4 steals; Amira Giannattasio – 11 points
KW Lightning: Maddy Horst – 19 points, 7 rebounds; Maddy Darling – 13 points (6/7 FGs), Sarah Shulz – 12 points