ONTARIO WOMEN WIN CANADA GAMES BASKETBALL GOLD
Sherbrooke, QC – Team Ontario’s U17 Women completed an undefeated tournament with a 61-41 win over British Columbia to wrap up the Canada Games on Saturday afternoon.
British Columbia kept the game relatively close through the first half, but a powerful Ontario team that barreled through the competition throughout the Canada Games steadily increased their lead.
Ontario used pressure defence to force B.C. into mistakes and capitalized on the opportunities scoring 22 points off turnovers. Shay Colley, Christina Buttenham and Cheyenne Creighton each scored 10 points and led a balanced team attack.
“We practice our team messages and have a goal every time we step on the floor,” Creighton said post-game after cutting down part of the netting at the Palais des Sports. “Our team motto is ‘be better always’ and when we step on the court with that on our minds we’re successful.”
Though the coaches refused to take any of the credit for the team’s success, every player was quick to recognize the effort of the Ontario coaching staff for helping to energize the team and prepare them for each upcoming match.
“We do have a bigger province, but we also work very hard and have great coaches,” said Buttenham. “The relationships also help and these coaches have been here all four of my years and we’ve built a sense of teamwork with them. We don’t have any one person that’s a one-man show.”
With dominating performances by both the men and women of Ontario it’s clear they are head and shoulders above the competition right now, but the competition is catching up with talented teams from coast-to-coast.
“It’s an exciting time,” said head coach Jodi Gram. “The pipeline of development in the women’s game and the networking that’s happening with the junior and cadet national team programs, lots of people are buying into development and competing on a world stage and the future looks bright for sure.”
“We loved watching the boys last week they set the bar really high and then we put in the work,” Gram continued. “These kids committed to their game, to each other and to a collective goal and that came out in every training camp. They’ve been relentless.”
At the U17 level Ontario has now won three consecutive years on both the men’s and women’s side, though British Columbia has consistently been the women’s toughest opponent. Ontario won nationals last year while B.C. placed third. In 2011 Ontario beat B.C. in the national finals 80-41 to erase memories of 2010 when B.C. won the national title 80-75 over Ontario. It’s become a fun rivalry and one that will likely continue though the women’s programs of Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan are on the rise.
A well-coached Manitoba team claimed bronze medals on the same day with a 62-54 win over Alberta, the second podium finish for Manitoba at the Canada Games after the men captured silver.
“Manitoba Basketball is getting way better than it was in the past few years,” said point guard Kyanna Giles who scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in another impressive performance for the 15-year old. “People think Manitoba’s usually ranked eighth or seventh but through the years we’ve been moving up and up and up and I’m proud of what Manitoba’s been doing.”
Head coach Don Thomson of Manitoba remembers watching the “legends” of Canada Basketball at the 1976 Olympics and is excited by the surge of Canadian basketball talent from across the country, starting with his own Manitoba team.
“It’s a great feeling and a great team group. They’re fantastic kids,” said Thomson. “We’re working at developing basketball in the province. It’s still tough but we’re working hard and I really think our people at Basketball Manitoba have done a great job to get the game going and we’re excited about where it’s going because it’s good now and we’re going to keep getting better.”
There is a widespread sense of optimism for continued growth in basketball across the provinces and in a few years time many of these athletes will be the faces of Canadian national teams, helping herald a new age where Canada consistently reaches the podium in international competition. For now though, these athletes are headed back to school to develop academically and physically with big dreams.