The Brockville Bantam Blazers ended the season in fine style by capturing the Ontario Basketball Association, Division 10, championships in Ottawa recently.
The bantam Blazers -girls ages 12 and 13 -knocked off the top-ranked Stratford Optimist by a 28-26 score in overtime in the championship final.
The Blazers didn’t start the season looking like a team that could win the provincial championships, noted coach Samantha Joudoin, but became much-improved as the season went along.
“It was pretty awesome. It was a great way to end the season. I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Joudoin.
In the championship game, Brockville trailed by as many as 10 points early on before battling back.
With less than a minute left in regulation time, Erin Rylands tied the game at 23-23 with a basket.
In the four-minute overtime, the Blazers scored the first five points, leading 28-23, before holding off Stratford to the final buzzer.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to win it. The girls had worked so hard all season, and they were the best any coach could ask for,” said Joudoin.
At the start of the season, Joudoin was concentrating on developing the skills of the young team.
“Whatever came up, there was no quit in them,” praised Joudoin. “They just wanted to learn and improve.”
Near the end of the season, the Blazers competed in a tournament in Hamilton and lost three games to stronger teams.
That was good for the team and it brought them closer together, noted Joudoin.
In the Eastern Ontario Basketball Association championships, Brockville knocked off the Capital Xelles 43-10 and Kingston Impact 31-10 before beating Arnprior 34-24 in the championship game.
At the provincial championships, Brockville beat Huntsville 24-21 before a 38-24 victory over Belleville.
In a pool division game against Stratford, Brockville won 25-20. That sent the Blazers into the semifinal against Arnprior, where a strong game at both ends of the court resulted in a 36- 26 victory.
Then, Brockville outlasted Stratford again in the championship to finish the season with a record of 18 wins and 12 losses.
“The girls came together at exactly the right time,” said Joudoin. “As close as they were on the court, they were closer off the court.”
Her coaching philosophy was one she’d learned from the coaches she’d had through her high school career at South Grenville, especially Joe Latham, and in her eight years with the Blazers before she played for St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
She learned something -what to do or what not to do -from every coach she’d had in her playing career.
“If we take care of the defence, the offence will take care of itself,” said Joudoin, on the theory that sounded so familiar to Latham’s.
In her second year of coming back to coach in an association that had provided her with playing opportunities, Joudoin could relate well to players who were only half her age.
“To come back and give something back to the team, I wish more people did it,” said Joudoin.
Even though she is getting married in the fall, she will be returning to coach with the Blazers again next season.
Members of the team were Kaitee Lawson-Rimmer, Sienna Cole, Ava Prosser, Alexa Meeson, Taylor Calhoun, Erin Rylands, Paige Paradis, Maya Spence, Bronwyn O’Connor, Sarah Moss, Alexandra Bates and Rianne Scott.
Mark Spence was the assistant coach with Angela Lawson- Rimmer as the manager.