Cougars advance to medal round
The Centennial Cougars came up just short in their biggest test to date at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) senior girls AA basketball playdowns Friday morning at Saint Paul.
The No. 3-ranked Cougars dropped a dramatic 40-38 decision to the top-ranked King’s Christian Collegiate Cavaliers of Oakville to fall to 2-1 after three games.
Its first loss obviously didn’t bother Centennial as later that night the Cougars defeated the St. Ignatius Falcons 63-60 to finish the round-robin portion of the tournament with a 3-1 record and advance to the semifinals at 9 a.m. Saturday. St. Ignatius led 12-9 after the first quarter before the Cougars roared back to take second and third quarter leads of 25-21 and 42-40.
“We played a really good game tonight,”Centennial head coach Craig Maltais said. “Four games in two days is no easy feat. I think the girls really stepped up tonight. We played tough defence and made it difficult for their shooters.”
Maltais felt Emma Smith and Jenna Dobbie probably played their best games of the season.
“At the end of the game, Jayda (Rodrigue) made some clutch free throws to seal the victory. We are really happy to be going to the medal round. It should be fun tomorrow.”
Scoring for Centennial against St. Ignatius were Rodrigue (19), Alexis Wright (15), Jessica Gibson (11), Smith (9) and Dobbie (9).
Maltais lamented his squad’s inability to finish around the basket in the loss to King’s Christian.
“It was a frustrating game a little bit, but it showed we can play with any team in this tournament which is an important message to take into tonight’s game and hopefully tomorrow,” he said. “We got the looks we wanted to, we just weren’t able to finish. It seemed like a tiny rim. It was just one of those days but we got the opportunities.
“I’d rather have a game where we got the looks but just didn’t finish as opposed to getting really lucky and just hanging in the game. We (know) we can play at that level, which is good.”
The Cavs led 15-10 after one quarter. Centennial rebounded to lead 22-21 at the half before King’s Christian rallied to lead 33-26 after three quarters.
The finish was dramatic as the Cavaliers took a 40-35 lead when Emilie Ougrinov scored with 37 seconds remaining. Jenna Dobbie then canned a three-pointer with 21 seconds to play to bring Centennial back to within a basket at 40-38.
Following a quick turnover and a foul, Alexis Wright had a chance to tie the game but missed a pair of free-throws with 16 seconds to play. Wright then missed a layup after another turnover with 10 seconds to play and the Cavs were able to run out the clock.
“It showed what we’re doing X and O’s-wise, defensively and hustle-wise, is good enough and if we play this game again, that we would give ourselves a good chance to win,” Maltais said. “It was just one of those days.”
Maltais feels playing against the top AA teams in the province has brought out the best in his squad.
“You can’t have bad habits against teams like this because they will take advantage of it,” he said. “It brings the quality of our game up because we know we have to execute in a certain way. That’s a good thing to have. A lot of the games in this tournament have been close and that’s good.
“Mental focus and making sure we are doing the right things helps us execute on offence, and especially on defence. We really stay locked in and that’s a strength for us.”
The Cougars take on St. Ignatius High School of Thunder Bay at 6:30 p.m. to conclude pool play.
Semifinals will be played Saturday at 9 a.m. at Saint Paul and Saint Michael. Both medal games will be contested at Saint Paul with the bronze-medal game going at 2 p.m. and the championship game at 3:30 p.m.
“Coming in we just wanted to play hard and see what we could do to compete,” Maltais said. “We’ve done a good job of competing and then hopefully get a W tonight and give ourselves a chance in the medal round and see what happens there.
“I haven’t seen a lot of teams in the other pool yet because we’re at different schools but I think we would have a chance and that’s what we want.”
Cavaliers 40 Cougars 38
Cat’s Caboose Star of the Game: King’s Christian Collegiate’s Vida Kojovic with 10 points.
King’s Christian Collegiate Cavaliers: Kojovic 10; Elia Metieh 8; Julia Coupland 6.
Centennial Cougars: Jayda Rodrigue 13; Alexis Wright 9; Audrey Bevacqua 6; Alexxis Smyth 6.
By the quarter: The Cavs led 15-10 after one quarter. Centennial led 22-21 at the half. The Cavs led 33-26 after three quarters.
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