Storm are OFSAA champions
Tori Hultink couldn’t have scripted a better end to her high school basketball career.
Playing in her home gym Saturday afternoon, the 5-foot-11 guard saw her Smithville Christian Storm team defeat the Nicholson Catholic College Crusaders 43-24 to capture the gold medal at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations senior girls A basketball championships.
“I couldn’t have dreamed of this. This was so much fun and it was awesome,” the Grade 12 student said. “We have built such good bonds and this is an incredible team.
“I knew from the beginning that this could be an OFSAA-winning team and it feels great.”
The 17-year-old’s belief in the championship pedigree of her team was based on a number of factors.
“All of the girls have such good individual skills and a hard-working mentality.”
The biggest attribute possessed by the team was its ability to play stifling defence.
“We are good on defence,” Hultink said. “We have long Dutch arms and we have a one-three-one (defence) that we found really helpful.”
About the only thing that might have made the Storm’s victory ever sweeter was to have the final game in front of its fans. Because of COVID-19 protocols, only a few volunteer parents and students were on hand to watch the final.
“I definitely wished there would have been fans,” Hulintk said. “The one game that we played there were kids in the hall and they were cheering really loud and that helped us perform even better. It would have been a better environment.”
Hultink would have loved to have seen what the Storm could have done last season as well if not for the pandemic that cancelled all high school sports.
“It was disappointing but I feel that there were a lot of disappointments and it didn’t register as much.”
Winning OFSAA gold was a grind for all the teams that made the medal round. The Storm played six games in three days, which matched the total number of games it contested in Niagara Region High School Athletic Association Zone 4 league play.
“There was a couple of times on defence my legs were barely holding up and my hands were shaking but it was one more game and we would be finished,” Hultink said.
She was looking forward to the celebration later Saturday night.
“We are all going back to my place for burgers and we are going to hang out and talk about it.”
It will be a fitting conclusion for a close-knit team.
“Everybody is so sweet and kind and we get along so well.”
The Storm went 4-0 in round-robin play, defeating sixth-seeded Hagersville 46-20, 10th-seeded Almaguin 67-16, second seeded Roland Michener Rebels 52-31 and seventh seeded E.S. Sainte-Trinite 49-24. It advanced to the final by knocking off the College Notre Dame Alouettes 48-36 in the semifinals.
In the championship game, the Crusaders scored first and that was the first time the Storm had trailed in a game at the OFSAA tournament. Smithville Christian then scored the next 11 points and led 11-5 after one quarter.
Nicholson cut the lead to 11-9 early in the second quarter before a 9-0 Storm run gave Smithville Christian a lead it would never relinquish. The hosts led 25-15 at the half and 35-17 after three quarters.
“These girls have a lot of heart and a lot of speed and they really work well together,” said Derrick DeKlerk, who helped coach the team with Tawnia Hultink. “You could see with their passes the way they were communicating on the court and I think their defence was spectacular though the whole tournament and especially in this game.”
For Nicholson, it was one shot and done because of the Storm’s prowess on the defensive boards.
Tournament convenor Fred Breukelman was ecstatic with how the event played out.
“The tournament has been running fantastic, the teams have been incredible, especially going into this final day where the top four teams (playing) are the top four teams.”
It was gratifying for Smithville Christian to serve as host for the championship.
“It’s just the fact that we are able to have a provincial competition at the end of the season and getting a chance to play teams that are outside of our region,” Breukelman said. “Most of these schools haven’t played any teams outside of their regions so now to have a pinnacle OFSAA experience and get to play other schools and have great competition is something that’s a pleasure.”
No tournament can run without volunteers and Breukelman had about 40-45 students and staff members help make the championship a reality.
“There are things that I kind of coordinate but then you have to give it over to the students at the scorer’s table and the staff members who pitch in with all their gifts, talents and abilities,” he said. “It is a true team effort to put on a championship like this.”
Storm 48 Alouettes 36
The Storm advanced to the OFSAA final Saturday morning with a 48-36 victory over fourth-seeded College Notre Dame Alouettes.
Scoring points for Smithville Christian in the win were Daniella Zondag (17), Kyra Van Geest (10), Tori Hultink (9), Jacoba Hoekstra (8) and Alia Breukelman (4).
Top scorers for Notre Dame were Noelle Tiangco with 12 and Alyzee Bisaillon with six.
Storm 43 Crusaders 24
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: Smithville Christian’s Jacoba Hoekstra with eight points and a lot of rebounds.
For the Smithville Christian Storm: Daniella Zondag 11; Kyra Van Geest 10; Hoekstra 8; Tori Hultink 8; Alia Breukelman 6. Also contributing to the victory were Regina Mushegera, Morgan Vanstaalduinen, Emma Vedder, Brooke Gilpin and Laurel Graham.
For the Nicholson Catholic College Storm: Charlotte Farrell 11; Kira Fair 5; Chloe Knapp 4; Madison Lees 2; Grace LaCriox 2.