All good things must come to an end.
And so it was with the Blessed Sacrament Under-14 girls Yellow Jackets, whose string of 26 consecutive wins was stopped in their opening game of the weekend’s (Feb. 7-9) Hamilton Transway basketball tournament. The Oakville Venom handed the Yellow Jackets their first setback this season, a 55-49 loss.
But, every cloud has a silver lining. Following that defeat the Yellow Jackets ran the table in the tournament which featured provincial Division 1 teams in their age group, including last year’s Ontario champions – the Venom. And at the end of the day the Yellow Jackets were crowned champions, their fifth tournament title this season.
While the YJs may have lost the opening tilt, they didn’t go down without a fight. Trailing by as much as 18 points at point in the game after a sluggish start, they showed renewed effort and focus in the final quarter and shaved the deficit to six points. But time became their chief opponent and Blessed Sacrament fell short by six points.
Top scorers were Natalie Vigna, with 18 points, and Emma Holloway with 15 points.
The Yellow Jackets entered their second game determined to atone for the loss. The team came out strong and finished with a decisive 43-21 victory over the Brantford CYO Falcons on Saturday.
Top Hamilton scorers were Mikayla Dalipe and Hannah Temple, with 10 points each.
The Caledon Cougars became the next victims when the YJs used strong passing and mid-range jumpers to fashion a 56-37 victory that sent them to the semi-finals. Top scorers were Temple, 10 points, and Vigna with eight points.
Sunday morning the girls found themselves up against the tournament hosts, Hamilton Transway, and showed a focused and disciplined game that resulted in a 52-31 win. Top scorers were Alyssa Venneri and Temple each with nine points.
That set the stage for the Gold Medal game against – the Oakville Venom and the Yellow Jackets got their revenge, a 56-52 thrilling win.
The Jackets pulled ahead by two points going into half after Marina Floris sunk an NBA-length three-pointer at the buzzer. The second half saw the lead change hands several times and that became a constant theme for the balance of the contest.
With 2.9 seconds left on the clock, the Venom led by one point, prompting Hamilton coach Perry Bruzzese to call a time out and draw up a game-winning play. Mikayla Dalipe drove hard to the basket putting up a shot and was fouled in the process. At the line she sunk the first of her two foul shots tying the game at 46-46. But her second shot rimmed out, forcing a four-minute overtime period. And in that session, the Yellow Jackets had more sting than Oakville had Venom.
Top scorers for the Jackets were Emma Holloway and Temple with 11 points each.
For the Yellow Jackets Mikayla Dalipe, the Gold medal made a great birthday gift. The Jackets record now sits at 26-1.
Next week the Jackets have a couple of league games and then are back into tournament play trying to win their sixth gold at the Caledon Cougars Tournament.