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Redemption: Saints Defeat Knights in Toronto City Finals



On November 15, 2011, the Eastern Commerce Saints defeated the Northern Secondary Red Knights in the Toronto public school Finals, by a score of 61-31.  The game took place in the University of Toronto Sports Gym, with the winner to earn an automatic birth to the OFSAA Championships (Ontario HS Provincial Finals).

In the last meeting between these two teams in the Toronto South Region Final, Northern beat the Saints in a close 59-58 game on November 8, which had many questioning the Saints’ ability to overcome loosing three players due to playoff ineligibility.  “We lost to them in the South Region Finals, but I don’t think we had the chance to really showcase who we are as a team, and I think they took full advantage of that.  There was a lot of adjusting we had to do coming into this game as a team,”  said Saints Head Coach, Kareem Griffin.  “The girls just knew they were a better team.  More battle tested, having played the best of the best in the province this year and we didnt feel as though [the Knights] were deserving of being able to defeat us.”

That sense of not willing to accept defeat and focus on proving their true identity as a team is something that came through very early in the Saints play.

“We had come in with a hunger.  We had to show people in this city why we feel we are the best,” said Saints’ Forward Billie Grant.  And the Saints did just that jumping out to a 15-7 lead that eventually mushroomed into a 27-11 lead late in the 2Q.

Northern was not able to solve for the Saints’ aggessiveness and anticipation which led to several steals by Saints’ guard Vaneil Simpson.  Nor were the Knights about to address the rebounding of Grant and fellow Saints Forward Tayla Gibb, who were all to pleased to send outlet passes that sent speedy athletic Guard Sami Hill off to the races resulting in a number of fast break scores.

Knights Guard, Mackenzie Sigurdson was able to find some daylight from time to time, but had a lot of her team’s burden placed on her shoulders and it proved too much for her to overcome.

In the end, this was definitely a statement game for the Saints.  They showed that despite the setback they experienced a couple weeks ago, there has been a re-tooling and a renewed focus that they hope to use on their way to Provincial Gold.  The Saints were led in scoring by Vaneil Simpson’s 20 points, Sami Hill’s 19 points and a 15 point contribution from Billie Grant.  Northern’s Mackenzie Sigurdson scored 17 points and was the lone Knight to score more than 6.

“Right now is a fine tuning kind of thing” Coach Griffin pondered when asked about how preparations will look over the next week or so in preparation for OFSAA.  “The only thing I’ll make sure to tell the girls is that if you want to win this, you will need to play the 5 best games of your life.”

There was a true fork in the road when the Knights beat the Saints back on November 8.  The Saints could have rolled over and played dead, having been content with what they accomplished to that point in the season and call it a wrap.  Instead, they used that loss to bring them closer together as a unit.  It is fuel that burns a fire that may certainly be tough to put out come OFSAA time which is echoed by Grant.  “With our ball smarts, our hunger and our togetherness, we should be able to win OFSAA…as long as we stick together and play like the family that we are.”

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