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Crusader Seniors Lead Charge For Fifth Straight Ontario Title



2015 St Mary's Huskies

2015 St Mary's CrusadersIf you’re looking for a definition of high school basketball supremacy in the province of Ontario, look no further than the St. Mary’s Crusaders of Hamilton, ON.

On November 28, 2015, the number one seeded Crusaders won their fifth straight OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association) 3A basketball Championships with a 50-35 win over the St John’s College Green Eagles.

In a rematch of the 2014 3A Final, the two teams played each other extremely close throughout the first half. St Mary’s Mackenzie Trpcic led her team with eight points in the first half. And despite her team leading throughout the opening 2 quarters, they held the slim 5 point lead by the end of the first and again, at the end of the second quarter.

It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Crusaders were able to earn themselves a little wiggle room on the scoreboard.

“It was touch and go there for a bit”, said St Mary’s Head Coach, Rich Wesolowski. “We had a couple kids make some big plays, we got a couple steals, then we got momentum and then that was it.”

“[Our team] stepped through. I was impressed.”

It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Crusaders were able to carve out a bit of wiggle room by stretching the lead to double digits.

A renewed game plan coming out of the locker after the halftime break, led to a couple tactical changes that worked out in the defending champs’ favour.

“In my opinion, [St John’s] runs a lot of sets. And, they have a little action they run out of 5-out. So, we made a couple adjustments”, explained Wesolowski, who was able to get his team to stretch their lead to 37-27 by the end of the third.

“Initially we were staying with people. And then I said let’s switch because they were getting too many open looks.”

“The only thing, there were too many stretches where we would forget who we were guarding.  [For us,] it was knowing who you were guarding, and then making good swiches and talking it through.”

“We did better as the second half went on. We got steals after people were switching for a purpose and stepping in the lanes and stealing off passes.”

Despite having a Gold Medal just being placed around his neck, capping off a one loss season, Wesolowski was very quick to acknowledge the challenge his team received from their talented Brantford, ON, Green Eagle foes.

“I give them full marks because they play so smart and they are very opportunistic”, recalled Wesolowski. “They look for little seams, like a slip on a screen, or a kid that falls asleep on help and they just drive. They’re just really well coached.”

The girls from St John’s College did put up a good fight. Kaitlyn Overeem converted several steals by being a pest on defence. Sure handed Kendra Van Leeuwen, who led the Green Eagles with 14 points and had much of the offence go through her and made good decisions with the ball. However, it just wasn’t to better the result of when these two teams played as recently as October 4, 2015. On that occasion, the Finals of a tournament that St Mary’s hosted, the Green Eagles fell short by 3.

Coach Wesolowski credited a lot of his team’s success throughout not only this game, but this season, to the play and the veteran presence of their 4 main Seniors. They were relied on quite heavily to allow his team to lifting become provincial Champions once again.

“I wanted to play our seniors a lot more this game because they’ve ‘been there,done that’.”

“I didn’t want to put the pressure on Ariel [Wilson] our Grade 9 kid, or Mia [Polango] our Grade 10 kid.”

Mackenzie Trpcic

Mackenzie Trpcic scored 19 points in the Gold Medal Final

Coach Wesolowski glowingly elaborated on just what kind of contribution those Seniors were able to make.

“Mackenzie [Trpcic, who ended with a game high 19 points], there was a lot of pressure on her, not only this tournament, but also this season because Hanna Hall had her injury and didn’t play all year. They shared the responsibilities last year. Mack baseically had to run the show. She scored almost at will at times for us. That was key.”

Halle [Bovell] could defend, she could disrupt shots. I asked her to guard Kendra today, their best player. She defend big kids, she can defend Point Guards, she can do it all.”

Taylor [Randall], you know is a smart kid. She had a couple of breakouts and nice spin layups and she finished strong.”

Julia [Hanaka] she stepped in when Hailey Summers went down [due to injury earlier in the Championships] and she stepped into a starting role. I was impressed. She played really well too.”

Although they’ve won this year’s Ontario title. The squad’s journey is not over. In mid-December, the Hamilton, ON squad will head down to Myrtle Beach, SC for their swan song in the CresCom Classic Tournament before putting a bow on their season.
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