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PECI Panthers soak in OFSAA experience

Senior Girls Team members include Becca McHugh, Vanessa Wilton, Mikayla Leavitt, Myla Deboef, Sidney Davies, Trinity Roche, Emily Wight, Chloe Marshall, Emma Lamorre, Jesse Swackhammer, Alexa Prinzen, Ernie MacMillan and Coaches Ernie MacMillan and Rob Garden (not shown).

The PECI Panthers Senior Girls Basketball team represented the smallest school from the smallest community, and although the team didn’t place, the members made their presence known at the All Ontario Championships (OFSAA) last week.

It’s the second time in three years PECI’s basketball team has reached all-Ontario competition and coach Rob Garden is proud of the successes – third straight Bay of Quinte Championship, second COSSA title in two years and second OFSAA appearance in two years.

“If someone would have told me eight years ago that we could say these things about our program, I wouldn’t have believed them. However, now we have created a culture of excellence and our expectations are very high heading into next year,” he said. “The silver lining might be that we’re only losing three players and the other nine now have some OFSAA experience, plus our junior team graduated a strong group of players that will help us next year.”

Garden recaps the games at OFSAA:

Game 1 vs #2 Dundas Valley (eventual Silver medal winners)
We knew playing the #2 seed was going to be a tough game, but we didn’t anticipate just how good the team from Hamilton would be. They were long, fast and could shoot the ball. We struggled to adjust to their speed and found ourselves down 33 – 7 at half.

It was a very good eye opener for our girls to what the next level of basketball looks like, so we focused on some small goals of moving the basketball with a purpose and attacking on offense. We played them to a 20 – 10 game in the second half, but gave us a bit of confidence moving forward. In her first ever OFSAA game, Vanessa Wilton was named game MVP and was also our high scorer.

Game 2 vs #5 Mother Theresa (eventual Antique Bronze winner)

This was a rematch from two years ago when we faced off against the Spartans in Windsor. They were a formidable opponent, but not as good as Dundas Valley. Unfortunately, our girls were very timid and MT took advantage building a 21 – 9 lead at the first quarter and 39 – 16 at half.

During the break, we stressed the message to the girls that they might only get one crack at OFSAA and to leave it on the court in the second half. Once again, we focused on a few key areas of once again moving the ball with a purpose and shooting with confidence. Similar to the first game, we had a much better half and played them to a 22 – 15 score. Sydney Davies was named game MVP and we hit five three-pointers as a team which was something we wanted to take into our third game.

Game 3 vs #14 John Paul II (eventual Consolation runners up)

We felt like we had made some positive strides in our first two games, and the girls were ready to compete. Unfortunately, once again, we played very scared. No one really seemed to want the ball and our scoring went completely dry. However, our defence was great and we found ourselves up 13 – 12 at half.

Once again, we regrouped at half and came out with a better frame of mind and attitude. Unfortunately, so did JP and we got down 8 points at the end of the third quarter. Our mental toughness has been tested all year, and we bent, but we didn’t break, battling back to tie the game with 30 seconds to go.

Mikayla Leavitt and Jesse Swackhammer scored 18 of our team’s 30 points in the second half to lead the comeback. With 10 seconds to go, Emily Wight was fouled and calmly hit 1/2 free throws. JP inbounded the ball, and we did a good job creating chaos and they knocked it out of bounds. They caught a huge break when the referee awarded them the ball back and our girls were stunned. Unfortunately, we didn’t snap back quick enough and before we knew it the ball was inbounded and their best player went coast to coast for a layup to win the game 45 – 44. It was a heartbreaking way to lose. Emily Wight was named game MVP and Mikayla Leavitt had her best game of the tournament scoring 14 while Jesse Swackhammer had 10.

Filed Under: Hastings & Prince Edward District School BoardNews from Everywhere ElsePECI - It's a Panther ThingSports & Recreation

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