High school foes unite,
work late at night
on Ontario Basketball’s
No. 1-ranked team
By Ned Bekavac
They’ve gone from being friends to foes, and back to friends again.
They’ve also gone to the top.
Late last year, you could have seen many members of the Guelph CYO Knights junior women’s basketball team fighting tooth and nail against each other while representing their respective high schools, with a coveted District 10 senior hoops title on the line.
Today, they’re in it together.
And, boy, it’s clicking.
“For a lot of us, we’ve been on the same (club) team for a long time. So in high school, it’s kind of like we don’t know each other because we play for our own schools, and then after the game, it’s all fun and games,” says the Knights’ Erin Gerstenkorn.
“So coming together now, it’s a good group of girls, who are all really tough players.”
That tough group of players is currently Ontario Basketball’s No.-1 ranked team in junior women’s (under-19) Division 1 ball.
It’s not an honour received in the past by many, or perhaps any, Guelph teams in that category, says the team’s bench boss.
“I don’t know if a Guelph team has ever been ranked No. 1 (in this division),” says Knights head coach Mark Trimble.
The Knights, a team that includes several players who earned Ontario bronze last season in the juvenile girls age group, are currently 16-2 this season as they prepare to host their Guelph CYO tournament this weekend.
The tourney runs from Friday to Sunday and, save for two games Friday night at Bishop Macdonell high school, all the action takes place at Our Lady of Lourdes high school. The gold medal game is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Lourdes.
Along with the No. 1 locals, the tourney will include several other top-ranked teams.
“There will be some good games, for sure,” says Trimble.
The Knights’ Monica Trimble said being ranked No. 1 is great, but it can also bring some extra challenges.
“It’s a lot of pressure, just trying to keep that up, because we don’t want to lose,” says Monica, coach Mark’s daughter.
Says Gerstenkorn: “You go to every tournament, and we were undefeated there for a while – there is a lot of talk around the other teams, like: ‘We have to beat them.’”
The team is down to just nine players this season after an ACL tear has shelved Charlotte Case for the rest of the campaign, says coach Mark.
“She’s been a big contributor over the years,” he said.
Mark is asked to describe this year’s Knights.
“We have speed, we have a lot of kids who can shoot and a bunch of people who can handle the ball, so it makes us hard to defend (against). We have a lot of kids who can shoot three pointers and we have a lot who can run the floor. It’s a good combination,” he says.
Among those on the team is Rebecca Morris, who was the District 10 league MVP this past season for the Bishop Macdonell Celtics.
Having just nine players brings its fair share of challenges. Another might be the Knights’ late-night practice times.
While the Guelph Storm, the OHL’s No. 1-ranked team, were well into the third period Tuesday night of their playoff game against Plymouth, the Knights, Ontario Basketball’s No. 1-ranked team, had yet to even hit the floor for practice.
They have practices twice a week, Tuesdays from 9:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Thursdays from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
“It’s terrible,” says Monica, with a laugh.
“It is pretty terrible,” smiles Gerstenkorn. “But I guess we’re all just used to it, we practiced this late last year too.”
“It can be tough,” says Mark.
The team does get good turnouts for practices though, says the coach, especially when you consider the student-athletes are at an age where things can be particularly busy for them.
They’re good at balancing hoops, school work and work, says the coach.
With the provincials slated for May in Kitchener-Waterloo, Mark knows it’s still early, and lots can change between now and then.
That said, many of his players had some pretty lofty goals before the season even started.
Mark says each player was asked before the season to jot down an individual goal for themselves, and a team goal.
Often times, players end up doing the exercise together.
“Sometimes they do it as a group, and that’s fine, if they want to get together and have a team goal, that’s what it’s all about,” says Mark. “A lot of them, most of them, put ‘Finish top three in the province,’ which was kind of nice to see.
“That’s the goal, to get another medal in Division 1. And you know what, if we’re going to get a medal, we may as well win it all,” he says.
First, there is this weekend’s tournament to look forward to. Every game is important because every game counts towards a team’s ranking, says Mark.
Then there is the matter of playing in Guelph.
“It’s our home tournament, we want to win it for sure,” says Monica.
• • •
• Monica Trimble (Lourdes)
• Erin Gerstenkorn (Lourdes)
• Charlotte Case (Lourdes)
• Jessica Morris (Bishop Mac)
• Rebecca Morris (Bishop Mac)
• Hannah Newman (Centennial)
• Emma Cain (Centennial)
• Sydney Wilson (Guelph CVI)
• Chelsey Gazzola (St. James)
• Nicole Cressman (Elmira)
• • •
Guelph opens its home tournament Friday when they play Blessed Sacrament (Palamarchuk) at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes high school.
The Knights’ second round-robin game is Saturday (10 a.m.) against the Flamborough Fire and they then play Toronto Lords Purple (4 p.m.) both at Lourdes.
Championship day is Sunday at Lourdes: Semifinals are at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.; Bronze medal game at 1 p.m.; Gold medal game at 2:30 p.m.