Ontario’s Top Dogs
In the end, the Sir Winston Churchill senior girls basketball team’s Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AA gold medal didn’t come easy.
After steamrolling their opposition in the first four games of the provincial championships in Stratford by an average winning margin of 43.3 points, the Centennial Cougars from Belleville gave the Bulldogs all they could handle in the gold medal game.
Churchill built quarter leads of 10-9, 28-17 and 36-23 on the way to a hard-fought 46-34 victory.
“The final was a battle. It was back and forth and it was a challenge,” Churchill head coach Frank Keltos said. “It was Game 5 (at OFSAA) and it was the last game for both teams in regards to their seasons and their last high school game. It was one of those epic ‘You got to play’ games and there was nothing easy about it.”
Before the game, Keltos warned the top-seeded Bulldogs not to take anything for granted.
“We might on paper be the team to beat but they were going to play hard and they were going to do everything they could to win the championship over us.”
That’s exactly what the Chargers did.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but they had really good help defence and they stuck to a man-to-man defence the whole time,” Keltos said. “They didn’t press us in any shape or form but they played a solid half-court D and made it hard for us to get easy baskets. Our press got us some points but they were able to get it over. They were very well-coached but we hit a few more shots than them.”
The Bulldogs finished the year with an overall record of 28-3. They won the BPSN tournament, made the finals of the Cathedral and Western tournaments and won a bronze medal at the St. Thomas More tournament. They lost twice to OFSAA AAA champion Cathedral and once to Sarnia Northern.
Familiarity played a big role in the team’s success. Five players have played for Keltos with the St. Catharines Rebels for at least one year, three of the players have been playing together for four years and starters Brookelyn Keltos and Yemi Oladipo have been playing together since Grade 3.
“They know my crazy, I guess, my system and what we are trying to accomplish,” Frank Keltos said. ‘They knew my defence and my press when we wanted to use it. Every girl knew their role and they knew if they were going in for one minute or five minutes. If they were in the game, they had a green light to shoot if they were open and they didn’t have a problem making mistakes and weren’t scared to make mistakes. They just went and played.”
Keltos also got buy-in from the Grade 10s on the team who he hadn’t coached before.
“They bought in because they were great kids and the girls all go along. Every tournament we all hung out together, winning together and not worrying about who was scoring and who had the ball.”
Churchill will lose four starters to graduation but the Bulldogs will be bolstered by a junior team that won the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association championship.
“We will be solid. We won’t be dominant but we will very, very competitive,” he said.
Members of the winning team are Brookelyn Keltos, Oladipo, Sam Cormier, Megan Barker, Kate Smyth, Lauryn Cosby, Paige Cook, Anya Namestnik, Kiera Pink, Morgan Barker and Francesca Avi.
Churchill 84 Patrick Fogarty 46
For Churchill: Megan Barker 22; Yemi Oladipo 19, Brookelyn Keltos 15, Kate Smyth 13; Anya Namestnik 7; Samantha Cormier 4; Morgan Barker 2, Lauryn Cosby 2.
Churchill 75 King City 29
For Churchill: Brookelyn Keltos 18; Yemi Oladipo 9; Kate Smyth 11; Megan Barker 21; Paige Cook 5; Anya Namestnik 5; Lauryn Cosby 4; Morgan Barker 1.
Churchill 76 East Elgin 27
For Churchill; Brookelyn Keltos 20; Yemi Oladipo 18; Kate Smyth 10; Megan Barker 8; Lauryn Cosby 7; Anya Namestnik 5, Paige Cook 5; Samantha Cormier 4
Churchill 75 Arnprior 35
For Churchill: Megan Barker 15; Oladipo 15, Smyth 15; Keltos 12; Samantha Cormier 6, Namestnik 6; Morgan Barker 5, Lauryn Cosby 2.
Churchill 46 Centennial 34
For Churchill: Brookelyn Keltos 16; Megan Barker 8; Yemi Oladipo 7; Kate Smyth 7; Samantha Cormier 2; Morgan Barker 2; Anya Namestnik 2.
Other members of the team were Kiera Pink and Francesca Avi.
At the OFSAA A championships in Walkerton, the defending champion and sixth-seeded Smithville Christian Storm were knocked to the consolation side of the tournament after losing 33-30 to Nouvelle Alliance and 53-34 to eventual champion Hamilton Christian.
The Storm rebounded to defeat Oakwood 41-23 and Madill 53-40 before falling 60-42 to Horizon in the consolation final.