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SG Basketball: When Balls Don't Fall

By Erik Van Dyke
This past weekend, your Stanstead College Spartans travelled to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu to participate in the first of our two most important events of the year, the 2024 Bailly Small Schools Provincial Tournament. As defending champions, and ranked #1 going into the tourney, we were looking to take care of business and bring the championship plaque back home.  
In round-robin play, we did just that. With consecutive dominant victories over John F Kennedy (50 -17),
St. Johns (53-23), A.S. Johnson (53-23) and Quebec High (24-18), we rolled into Sunday’s championship game undefeated and, for the most part, unchallenged.
Highlights from those first two days include: 
  • Ridiculously dominant runs. To wit: 25-0 vs JFK in the second quarter; 25-1 to start the game vs St. Johns; and 29-0 out of the gate vs ASJ. All three games were played in the tiny elementary school gym, which made our already effective defence virtually unbeatable. I swear we had more steals than our opponents had shot attempts.
  • Setting up our defence vs ASJ after halftime on the wrong side of the court, and standing there confused until ASJ scored 5 vs 0.
  • The Player of the Game Awards that were selected by the opposing teams, i.e. JFK picked Maddie, St. Johns selected Clara, ASJ chose Majo and QHS selected Halle – CONGRATULATIONS to all!
  • Speaking of Clara and Majo, they played the best games of their lives vs St. Johns and ASJ respectively. Clara (8 points) was as purposeful as she’s been all year in the post, and Majo had her best defence/rebounding game of the season. Both of them played like the game has slowed down for them a bit, which is what happens when you keep playing at a fast pace.
  • Edythe’s shooting efficiency. For the weekend, she shot 11 for 24 and went 8 for 12 from the line – that is truly impressive at the high school level.
  • The NBA 2-ball competition, featuring Spartans in all four Final Four teams, and won by Hayley and her partner from St. Johns. After all those years watching the 2-ball, what a thrill to win it!
  • And, of course, The Deftones.
So yeah, the Red & White were rolling. And with what we had planned for our rematch with Quebec High. (We had shown them nothing in our meaningless round-robin game.) It was looking very good for Sunday’s final. We were confident. We were ready. We were hyped.
The Final
You always dread those games where you just can’t score, no matter how well you play, no matter how many wide-open shots and layups you create. Those lid-on-the-basket games are super-frustrating. Even worse, you don’t want to suffer through one of those terrible spells in the most important game of the year.
But for two full, agonizing quarters of basketball, that’s what happened to your Spartans vs Quebec High in, of all places, the Bailly final. After a hot start by Maddie inside (8 quick points) helped build us an early 10-4 lead, we seemed to be firing on all cylinders, well on our way.
But from that point on, we missed everything. I mean everything. Run the offence perfectly to produce a bunny inside – blow it. Break the press beautifully for a fast break layup – make an ugly mess of it. Earn a trip to the free throw line – not even close. Fight for an amazing offensive rebound – miss the putback, 2, 3, 4 times in a row. An actual outside jump shot – forget it, we couldn’t hit from 2 feet, never mind 15 feet.
We were playing SO WELL on offence, fast, crisp, smart passes, great hands, no turnovers, doing pretty much everything right, giving ourselves the highest percentage shots you could ever ask for, every trip down the floor… and from the 4-minute mark in the first quarter to the 4-minute mark in the third quarter, a full half-game playing near-perfect ball, we scored a grand total of… 13 points.
And what happens when you keep missing opportunities like that? In a monster game? You get anxious. Your shoulders tighten up. You don’t shoot freely. You think about missing that layup, instead of letting your body just make that simple shot that you’ve made a million times. The pressure builds. With every miss, every groan from the crowd, every “dammit how’d I miss that,” it gets harder to score the next time.
So halfway through the third quarter, despite dominating Quebec High in every way, despite insane prison lockdown defence, despite great passes and steals and slick moves and dominant rebounding and near-perfect offensive execution, the score was only 23-17 for us. A 6-point lead. Anybody’s game.
And we are rattled. Timeouts are tense. Players whining about the refs. Teammates barking at each other. You can read it in our eyes, our body language – “we are blowing this, how are we freaking blowing this!” We are teetering. Careening downhill. We need a spark.
And Camryn Moore, Bailly 2024 MVP, provides the spark.
I remember it clear as a bell. Cammy, left side of the offence, takes a 14-foot jumper which, incredibly, swishes through the net. The bench – which had been outstanding all game, exceptionally supportive – erupts. I look at Coach Wolfe – “did that just happen?” Players’ shoulders loosen a little bit. And then, next trip down the floor, Camryn launches a three, nothing but net(!), 5 points in 30 seconds, up 28-17 now, shots are falling, shoulders loosen up all the way, and from that point on the Red White Machine becomes unstoppable. All of a sudden we can’t miss, we’re attacking and finishing in wave after wave. The game, which had been SO HARD, becomes easy, fluid, fun, beautiful.
For the last 12 minutes of the game, we outscore our opponents 27-4(!), flying to the finish line of a 50-21 score that does not come close to telling the real story of the game.
A game where we had to push ourselves up off the mat of our own self-doubt. Where our own insecurities were as big a challenge to overcome as our valiant adversary.
Sport is about so much more than X’s and O’s. That’s what makes it important.
Congratulations to the 2023-24 Senior Girls Basketball Spartans, for bringing the Bailly championship plaque back to Stanstead College. It wasn’t easy, but worthwhile things never are.
- Coach Van Dyke

The year so far…
Overall Record20 wins 12 losses      
RSEQ League Play:  5 wins  5 losses
Points for per game34.4     Points allowed per game26.2
CAIS Semifinalists
BCS Tournament Finalists