E.L. Crossley boasts strength in numbers
Head coach Aaron Belding has plenty of options when he looks down the bench at the E.L. Crossley Cyclones girls basketball team.
With the school combining its junior and senior teams into one varsity squad, Belding may end up with writer’s cramp putting all 16 players down on the scoresheet for every game this season.
On Tuesday, 13 of those 16 players scored as E.L. Crossley opened the 19th Standard Girls Basketball Tournament with a 52-28 victory over the Grimsby Eagles.
Belding has a lot of talent on his roster, which includes JUEL players, JUEL prep players and former Basketball Ontario Division 1 champions.
“It makes it hard for substitutions because everybody on the bench can play,” he said. “I play everybody.”
The decision to run a varsity program this year was taking into account the best interests of the school, Belding said.
“We didn’t have enough seniors to run a senior squad and we didn’t have enough juniors to run a junior squad but looking at the overall outcome of the school, we want to keep both programs alive.”
One of the key senior-aged players on the squad is 5-foot-7 Sydney Grummett.
“She’s a good leader, she had great ball handing skills and she is able to work the ball to everybody,” he said. “She is a great personality to coach.”
The 16-year-old is a member of the Niagara JUEL team and was part of Crossley’s Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association junior A championship squad from a season ago.
The Grade 11 student has mixed feelings about the varsity program.
“Am I allowed to swear?” she said, with a laugh. “It’s interesting. It’s nice that we can all play together, but in some cases it’s a disadvantage.
“But it’s fun to play with the girls and some of the girls I really like to play basketball with.”
Grummett is taking her game a lot more seriously this year.
“I definitely want to get more intense with my game, train a lot harder than last year and go all the way and as far as I can get,” she said, adding her success last year in travel ball is motivating her this season.
Crossley’s win sets up a quarter-final match Wednesday against Blessed Trinity and Grummett will be facing off against current Niagara JUEL teammate Maddie O’Brien and former Niagara Rangers teammate Lexia Poitras.
“It’s good to play against them and it will be nice to see them again.”
Blessed Trinity is the second-ranked team in the tourney.
“We know they are good, we know they have a lot of good players, but we’re going to go out try our best and give it all we got,” Grummett said.
Grimsby had that mentality against Crossley, but with star shooter Paige Epp now on a soccer scholarship and top player Ilijana Vukovic now playing with the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association program at A.N. Myer, coach Erika Smith knew she was facing an uphill battle.
“They have a great team and I knew that their juniors had won SOSSA last year and it looked like that talent came up and increased the talent they had last year.”
At last year’s Standard tournament, Grimsby edged Crossley in the consolation finals on the way to winning that division.
“We were prepared for that and a couple of our girls knew that they had some real star players so we were prepared for that,” she said. “But they were a great team and everything they threw up was dropping.”
Smith is enjoying coaching her squad this season.
“We’re out there on the court having fun and doing what we can with what we’ve got,” she said. “We have great teamwork and they have a positive attitude so it’s been fun, but not as successful as last year.”
Cyclones 52 Eagles 28
Mick and Angelo’s/Johnny Rocco’s Player of the Game: E.L. Crossley’s Sydney Grummett with four points and a strong all-around game.
For the E.L. Crossley Cyclones: Taryn Mitchell 7; Tess Puchalski 6; Jordan Wilton 6; Megan Buckway 5; Grummett 4; Mya Newton 4; Martha Lirio 4; Emily Bonisteel 4; Leah McIntee 2; Allison O’Connor 2; Hannah Nicholls 2; Jenna Dobbie 2; Mackenna Belding 2; two points not accounted for.
For the Grimsby Eagles: Madelyn Strongitharm 12; Asha-Lee Crooks 5; Lauren Nugent 3; Sarah Wade 3; Maddy Reed 2; three points not accounted for.