Simpson sinks VJM in SAPEC final
Lady Voyageurs knock off last year's champions by eight points
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 06:00 am
The first SAPEC girls’ basketball championship since 2004 was worth the wait for the Sir George Simpson Voyageurs.
The drought ended in Friday’s 61-53 victory against the 2012 champion Vincent J. Maloney Marauders in the Tier 1 city final at the SkyDome.
“It means a lot,” said co-captain Jenell Desharnais. “I feel we made people proud because it’s been so long since we won in basketball or even been there (in the final). It was a good moment to be a part of.”
Simpson was never in trouble while holding the upper hand at 15-12 at the end of the first quarter, 34-20 at halftime and 51-40 after three quarters.
“We played a really great game for the last game of the season,” said co-captain Serena Lillo. “We were all really proud and happy because we worked really well together.”
At one stage Simpson held a commanding 20-point lead.
“We worked really well as a team, like we always do,” said co-captain Jamie Bain, the top scorer in the final with 27 points. “We’re a fast team so we beat them down the court often.”
After losing 35-15 to VJM in the season-opening SAPEC tournament, Simpson rebounded to defeat the Marauders at the Spruce Grove Power of 3 and Richard S. Fowler tournaments before wrapping up the regular season with a 47-31 win with first place on the line.
“If we hadn’t beat them earlier we would’ve been nervous about trying to beat them so we were pretty confident (going into the final). We had beaten them in the past so we were just going to stay calm and play our game. We weren’t really going to worry,” said Lillo, who tossed in 20 points in the final.
The buildup to the big game was more nerve-racking than the season finale.
“We were trying to stay calm so that we would be ready to play but we were all really excited the whole week,” said Desharnais, a Grade 9 point guard.
A pair of Grade 8s – Lauren Cardinal and Alayah Jackson – led VJM in scoring with 22 and 11 points, respectively, in the final.
A young VJM team was 6-1 in the regular season as the league’s best defensive team and Simpson was 7-0 as the highest-scoring team in the division.
“We’re both really similar teams,” said Desharnais, 14. “Most of us have played together on other teams so we know how each other plays. When we played them in cities we knew how they played and it was a battle the whole game, just trying to figure out how to get past them.”
Simpson finished 10-0 in league play and 23-2 overall.
In tournament action Simpson was victorious at the Power of 3 and Fowler and then won the consolation side at Harry Ainley against the high school’s junior team.
Bain, 14, rose to the challenge in the Power of 3 final against Riverbend of Edmonton by sending the game into an extra period with a free throw to knot it at 50 apiece after the tournament MVP missed her first attempt.
Simpson trailed Riverbend by around 12 points for most of the match before rallying to make it a one-point deficit in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Simpson went on to win 57-51.
Lillo, 15, credited the team’s depth for the successful season.
“A lot of us have really different skills or aspects that we bring to the game and that’s really good for us,” said the Grade 9 wing. “Offensively and defensively it’s kind of equal. We’re really strong with both.”
Team unity was another important factor in the team’s championship run.
“We were really positive and we didn’t bring each other down. We didn’t get mad at each other, we just keep our cool. We did our own thing and encouraged each other and that was a really good thing about our team specifically. We just ran with that and kept going,” Lillo said.
Simpson’s championship was three years in the making. Bain, Desharnais and Lillo made the senior team in Grade 7 and last year’s line-up featured five Grade 7s. This year’s Grade 9 dominated 13-player roster was comprised of 11 returning players.
Simpson’s co-captains were also among seven players on the school’s SAPEC championship-winning volleyball team.
Bain said the basketball triumph exceeded the volleyball championship.
“We’ve been on this team for three years so in working up to this moment we practiced and did everything we could to be at this game, so when we won it was really exciting,” said the Grade 9 wing.