Perfect season for lady Marauders
VJM girls' basketball team finish 24-0 for the second time in three years as SAPEC junior high Tier 1 city champions
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 06:00 am
Winning the coveted SAPEC crown by a whopping 38 points was the exclamation mark to a perfect season by the Vincent J. Maloney Marauders.
Last Friday’s 60-22 blowout of the Lorne Akins Gators at the SkyDome also marked the second time in three years the VJM girls’ basketball team finished undefeated as Tier 1 city champions.
“It really means a lot to us as a team,” said co-captain Lauren Cardinal, the leading scorer in the final with 17 points. “To win the championship game to go undefeated is a great experience.”
The 24th win 24 games under longtime head coach Rob Rawcliffe – matching the 2012 record of perfection when VJM beat the Gators 47-35 in the final – was a done deal after 10 minutes with the lady Marauders in total control at 22-8 before it turned into a 39-15 rout at halftime.
“I wouldn’t say it was our best game but it was one of our top games we played,” Cardinal said. “We were actually really nervous. We were kind of like shaking in our shorts a bit.”
Cardinal, a Grade 9 post, racked up 10 points in the first half and wrapped up the victory with the team’s only three-pointer of the game.
Alexie Pusch generated 11 points, Payton McNeil tacked up 10 and Marina Cain and Sarah Dedrick added eight apiece for VJM to go 10-0 league play.
The top scorer for the Gators was Alesha Stanley with five points.
VJM basically scored at will and gave the Gators grief on defence.
“The plays we had in our back pocket we used them when we needed to,” said Pusch, a Grade 9 co-captain and guard. “We did lots of fast breaks but the big thing was we really came together as a team. Our players know each other really well. We have a good team bond.”
VJM is a tight-knit group of hoopsters who play with passion.
“Most of us have played together for a very long time and we have that connection on the court and I don’t think any other school has what we have,” Cardinal said.
The Gators closed out the season at 8-2 in league play and 19-5 overall. Veteran bench boss Dan Wiles described this year’s lineup as his best team that didn’t win the city championship. Four of the five losses were against VJM, including 41-17 in the SAPEC Boston Pizza Invitational Tournament semifinal and 61-32 in league play. The other setback was against Sargent Park of Winnipeg.
“The score was kind of the same as any other game we played them,” Cardinal said. “It was like any other game for us.”
But the fear of losing forced VJM to buckle down to get the job done.
“Like any city final there is always pressure, but because we were undefeated there was more pressure on us. We didn’t want to lose our last game,” said Pusch, one of six returning players from last year’s 61-53 loss to the Sir George Simpson Voyageurs in the city final.
School spirit was another factor in the team’s unblemished record.
“When we see most of our school come out and watch us it makes us feel good and we want to win,” said Pusch, 15.
Cardinal, 14, agreed.
“It’s not just the team that helps us win, it’s our school that helps us out. All the teachers come out and support us and all the students too. I think having the school by your side helps us conquer our goals to win.”