Young Bulldogs up to challenge
Like a number of high schools in the Niagara region, Sir Winston Churchill has seen a few of its top girls basketball players decide to head to A.N.Myer to take part in that school’s Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association program.
Churchill Bulldogs head coach Frank Keltos said last Friday that he was going to miss the departure of the talented Kaley DeMont and Janee Harrison, but he has confidence in the skilled group that remains.
“I wasn’t sure because we lost two kids from last year’s team, but we got older,” he said. “We are now more experienced and we don’t start three Grade 9s. We have three Grade 10s and experience is huge.”
As of Tuesday, DeMont had returned to Sir Winston Churchill, making the Bulldogs even stronger at the guard position. DeMont played last season with the Niagara JUEL program under Keltos and has been a proven winner throughout her minor basketball career.
Keltos expects the Churchill program to be strong for the foreseeable future. There are only three Grade 12s on this year’s roster and the Grade 9 class that entered Churchill this fall included a number of skilled basketball players.
The future sounds exciting but so does the present.
“I am hoping we can get to the zone final against whoever that is and then whatever happens happens,” he said.
Keltos will enjoy the ride.
“Coaching these guys is awesome,” he said. “They are a great bunch of kids.”
Among the embarrassment of riches Keltos has at his disposal at the guard position is Grade 10 player Lauren Vanecko.
“She has come out guns blazing in this first tournament (St. Francis), hitting threes and helping Ally (Sentance) at the point,” he said. “We basically have two point guards out there at all times, actually we have four or five.”
Vanecko is important to Churchill because it takes the pressure off of Sentance.
“A lot of people know who Ally is, but she (Vanecko) is a bit of a dark horse even though she shouldn’t be,” he said. “I don’t think she is given enough credit.”
Keltos feels Vanecko has made tremendous strides from her Grade 9 season.
“Through the summer and through everything, she has been getting better and now she is Grade 10,” he said. “She is more mature and she is getting stronger.”
The 14-year-old, who along with Sentance was named a tournament all-star at the St. Francis tournament, feels she is a much different player compared to last season.
“I feel like I have gained a lot more confidence and strength and is has helped me a lot to go to the rim and to be stronger with the ball,” she said. “I feel last year I didn’t really do that.”
The Welland JUEL travel player has benefitted from playing senior high school ball at such a young age.
“Playing older girls has made a big difference compared to playing against girls my age,” she said. “The girls in senior are way taller and stronger than me.”
Vanecko’s goal is to play university basketball and she wants to make improvements every season to give herself that opportunity.
“This year, I need to work on my ball handling,” she said.
Like Keltos, she is excited about her team’s chances the season.
“I enjoy playing with the other girls on our team because they are really strong,” she said. “The friendship that we all have helps us to communicate with each other.”
Last season, the Bulldogs won the Zone 4 AA championship before falling 58-50 to Dundas Valley in the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association AA championship game.