CBHA Huskies guard and tournament MVP Sarah Ross heads up court after forcing a turnover in the Baddeck zone during Thursday’s opening game of The Brendan.
-by Bill Dunphy
In a tournament where winning isn’t everything – but it sure is something! – the Cape Breton Highlands Huskies girls’ basketball team got to enjoy the feeling of winning the 17th Annual Brendan MacLennan Memorial on Sunday.
It was the first time in eight years for a CBHA girls’ team to win the event, and it came in an intense, come-from-behind victory over their northern rivals, the Cabot Trailblazers.
The two teams were finalists at last year’s Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Division 3 provincial tournament, with the Trailblazers taking the gold and Huskies silver. It was the first time ever for two Cape Breton teams to meet in a provincial final.
The final score was 62-50 for the Huskies, but required a 23-4 final quarter with six players scoring points in those final 10 minutes.
The Trailblazers led 21-13 in the first quarter and were up 30-27 at the half. They extended that lead to 45-39 after the third quarter of play, but started running into foul trouble.
Three starters – Madelyn Whitty, Malery Whitty, and Molly Usifer – all fouled out before the final buzzer, joined by grade nine bench player Sierra Kavanaugh.
The Huskies, meanwhile, were without Abby Morrison and Sydney Gale in the final minutes after they fouled out.
However, the Huskies proved to be the more resilient squad, as Leah Burns, tournament MVP Sarah Ross, Kaye Hart, Kyla Gale, and Julia Curley all put up points to carry the Huskies to victory.
“No one wanted to be paper champions – it had to be a hard-fought final for it to count,” said Huskies’ coach Billy Crowley. “When the final buzzer went Shane (co-coach Hannigan) and I just sat there and watched the girls enjoy the moment. It was magical.”
Crowley said the win defined the meaning of a team effort.
“We had a battle on our hands up until the last two minutes when we pulled ahead. But we trailed for 90 per cent of the game and you could see it was coming down to who wants this more.
“Our guards were a little more agile on rebounds (but) it was a really healthy mix of young players, who were looking to show what they could do, and our veterans wanting to leave something for next year’s team to aspire to.”
Burns, Sarah Ross, and Emily Ross were all in double-digits with 14, 11, and 10 points respectively.
Also scoring: Sydney Gale, 9; Abby Morrison, 8; Kyla Gale, 6; Ava Ross and Julia Curley, 2 each.
Malery Whitty led Cabot with 23 points. Also scoring: Madelyn Whitty, 11; Usifer, 9; Rebecca Barron, 4; Kavanaugh, 2; Jillian MacKinnon, 1.
Crowley said the weekend The Brendan has become the Coal Bowl of western Cape Breton.
“When this tournament first began it was hard to get teams, it’s February after all. Now we have a wait-list of a dozen teams or so. As much as regionals, provincials, whatever, are important, it’s The Brendan.”
Crowley remembers watching Brendan MacLennan play and he knows the event is a positive influence on the young people in the stands, especially the pre-primary and primary students.
“They see their role models on the court and it grows the sport. It’s good for them and good for the community.”
Crowley also noted how the visiting teams all rallied behind five-year-old Jillian Kmith, the daughter of Gen (Godreau) and Jeff Kmith, who is fighting cancer. Gen, the daughter of Julia Tompkins and Tom Godreau, is a native of Margaree, now living in Ontario, and a former Margaree Panther.
A benefit concert was held on Sunday, but Crowley said the fundraising began earlier.
“The teams that came to the tournament said to us, ‘How can we help?’ We started a pot and by the end of the weekend envelope after envelope (of money) was coming in. This was something totally removed from the tournament, but then again, not. Some things are bigger than basketball.”
According to an early report on the benefit concert, upwards of $11,000 had been raised.
In the girls’ consolation game, the Baddeck Broncos downed the Dalbrae Dragons 57-39.
Marylee Parsons led the Broncos with 19, followed by Emma Dixon and Teagan Sampson with 16 and 10 respectively. Also scoring: Naomi Yonder, 5; Chloe Peterson, 4; Brielle Beattie, 2; Kailyn MacKenzie, 1.
Shelby MacEachern and Bridget MacInnis were the top shooters for Dalbrae with 12 and 11. Also scoring: Maria Spears, 7; Alexandra Beaton, 5; Jayden Shaw, 4.
Two Junior Girls’ teams also had a chance to display their skills in an exhibition game on Thursday, with the Cape Breton Highlands Huskies getting past the Inverness Rebels 25-23.
Madison Gale had a monster game for the Huskies with 17 points. Also scoring: Laura Morrison, 7; Rori Timmons and Skylar Shaw, 2 each.
Olivia Copley and Angela Chranofsky each had 6 points for the Rebels. Also scoring: Ella MacDonald, 5; Chrissy MacKinnon, 4; Caragh Kennedy, 2.
The following are the results of round-robin play:
Huskies 39 (Leah Burns, 13; Sarah Ross and Ava Ross, 8 each; Kaye Hart and Sydney Gale, 4 each; Kaycee Timmons, 2) Baddeck 22 (Marylee Parsons, 9).
Baddeck 44 (Parsons, 12; Emma Dixon, 8; Sarah MacCormack, 7; Isabelle Christie, 6) Dalbrae 30 (Bridget MacInnis, 9; Jayden Shaw, 6; Maria Spears, 5; Alexandra Beaton, Marli Gillis, Mya Bernard and Shelby MacEachern, 2 each).
Huskies 44 (Sarah Ross, 13; Emily Ross, 11; Sydney Gale, Kyla Gale and Abby Morrison, 6 each; Ava Ross, 2) Cabot 25 (Madelyn Whitty, 9).
Cabot 44 (Rebecca Barron, 13; Malery Whitty, 11; Madelyn Whitty, 7; Addison Budge, 6) Dalbrae 25 (Alexandra Beaton and Bridget MacInnis, 7 each; Shaw, 4; Spears, 3; Allie Beaton and MacEachern, 2 each).
Cabot 47 (Madelyn Whitty, 19; Molly Usifer, 12; Malery Whitty, 8) Baddeck 37 (Parsons, 13; Christie, 12).
Huskies 48 (Burns, 12; Abby Morrison, 7; Sarah Ross, Ava Ross and Sydney Gale, 6 each; Emily Ross, 4; Miranda Morrison, 3; Lynn MacKinnon and Laura Morrison, 2 each) Dalbrae 22 (Spears, 10; Allie Beaton, 6; MacEachern, 4; Shaw, 2).
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