Warriors crowned Canadian champs
The Welland Warriors celebrate winning the U14 Jr. NBA Canadian Championships in St. Catharines. Photo Special to BPSN.
It came down to the wire Sunday afternoon before the Welland Warriors emerged with a 56-53 victory over British Columbia in the U14 Jr. NBA Canadian Championships in St. Catharines.
“It was a great game,” Welland head coach Dave Picton said. “We kind of held control for most of the game with a seven- to 11-point lead. Towards the end, they hit a three and a couple of shots to make it tight.
“We played great D (defence) in the last 13 seconds and they basically had to chuck up a shot.”
The game was far cry from earlier in the weekend when Welland pounded British Columbia 44-18.
“We blew them out and you hate playing teams twice,” Picton said. “When you play really well and win by a large margin, you don’t know which way it can go in the championship game.”
It went well enough for Welland to record the victory.
“We didn’t play fantastic and not as good as the first game, but they also got to see us again,” Picton said. “It was such a cool atmosphere for the kids being in the Meridian Centre and we had a load of fans.”
The side of the arena behind the benches was pretty much packed for the game.
“It was a great thing, but it made the girls at this age group a little bit nervous, I think,” Picton said.
In other games leading up to the final, the Warriors defeated Saskatchewan 78-22, Quebec 36-23 and Nova Scotia 59-31. Welland had a tough game against Quebec, holding a six-point lead for most of the game before eventually winning by 13
“That was a tough slugfest,” Picton said. “They were very physical.”
With the tournament victory, Welland will be Canada’s representative at the U14 World Jr. NBA Championships Aug. 7-12 in Orlando, Fla.
“For as long as I have played ball and coached in club basketball, there has never been, that I know of, a true national championship,” Picton said. “They are now going to play China, Europe, a team from Mexico, South America and Africa. What an experience for these kids just to play kids their own age that are in Junior NBA programs all around the world.”
When talking with the Junior NBA officials that were in St. Catharines, Picton was told a number of countries have put together all-star teams for the world championship.
“It will be interesting to see a club team like ourselves take on country all-star teams at U14 (under-14),” he said. “I love it, I can’t wait and who knows how we will stack up? The good thing is we have been together for so long.”
The majority of Welland’s team has been together since the under-nine division. Members of the team won OBA (Basketball Ontario) silver in Division 1 as an under-10 team and then won gold as an under-11 squad. They played up a level at both under-12 and under-13, winning bronze in Division 2 the first year playing up and fourth in Division 1 last year.
The team will continue training with the Niagara Girls Basketball Academy under-16 team for the month of July, minus Emma Koabel and Lara Cook, who will be with Team Ontario that month.
Whenever everyone returns, the Warriors will hold a two-week training camp prior to the world championships.
Members of the championship squad, coached by Picton, Allison Mauro and Tom Vukovic, are Koabel, Cook, Alexis Wright, Aleksija Vukovic, Maya Torigian, Kennedy Millin, Natalie Picton, Jayda Rodrigue, Corrynn Parker and Gabriella DiPietro.
Parker missed the Canadian tournament with a knee injury
“She was a huge missing piece for us,” Picton said. “She is one of our better players.”