By Dan Plouffe
The Sacred Heart Huskies hung with the Louis-Riel Rebelles for a while on the opening day tip-off of their national capital senior girls’ basketball season, but the two-time defending OFSAA ‘AAA’ champions proved to be too much in the end on Wednesday in Blackburn Hamlet.
Up by only five at halftime, the Rebelles turned it up several notches in the third quarter, exploding for a 21-6 advantage in the frame en route to a comfortable 68-37 victory.
“Just before the half I thought our girls got kind of complacent, so we talked about it in the change room and the second half was much better,” recounts Louis-Riel coach Andre Desjardins, noting the Huskies have the tools to be one of the city’s top teams this year as well. “It was our defense – we had a lot of steals.”
Veterans Catherine Traer and Alexie Morin-Holland were their dominant selves in posting 17 and 13 points respectively, while Grade 10 point guard Ashley Polacek looked quite comfortable in her shoes despite the fact it was her debut performance as a starter after serving behind junior national team player Kellie Ring last season.
“I think we did well, but we could have played more as a team, talked more, and made some better passes,” says 12-point contributor Polacek, already displaying some solid leadership traits. “We have good players. We just need to play better as a team. But since the seventh grade, we’ve known each other, so we do have good chemistry already – it’s just about finding that again.”
With many of the stars from some of the best high school basketball teams the city has ever seen – such as Ring, Francesca Bellehumer-Moya and Kristy MacGregor-Bales – graduating this past spring, it might be logical to expect the Rebelles’ dynasty to end this year.
But the Louis-Riel program isn’t quite like most other teams – they do have a younger group this season, but there is a fresh wave of talent more than ready to step in, highlighted by Polacek, who impressed at Ottawa’s JUEL try-outs but was too young to play in the provincial club basketball Junior Elite League.
“No question we have some talent and athleticism and I really like the personalities on the team,” Desjardins notes. “But I think it’ll be a growing process, and I think our best game will probably be our last one of the year. I love the way this group is growing.”
Where that last game winds up being, Desjardins isn’t quite sure. Although his squad was short a couple of players, the Rebelles got spanked by 40 points in a tournament against Holy Cross, a top provincial competitor – a humbling result regardless of the lineup, Desjardins notes.
As reflected in their new point guard leader, the Rebelles are excellent shooters and ball movers but might not overpower any opponents physically due to the fact that there are numerous junior-age players on the senior squad.
Louis-Riel’s minimum performance goal is to get back to the city championship game, notes Desjardins, who’s identified playing every team member as much as possible to develop depth, and developing better teamwork as his squad’s other primary objectives.
“We’re going to live and die by how we jell as a group,” he adds. “We’re looking forward to another fun, good season.”
Five other teams all posted some dominant victories in starting off their basketball seasons, as Holy Trinity, Garneau, Nepean, Longfields-Davidson Heights, and St. Matthew all fired out to a 2-0 senior girls’ start.
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