North Toronto Huskies: 2012 JUEL Champs
Published by Michael Henry on May 7, 2012
On May 6, 2012, the North Toronto Huskies accomplished the ultimate prize in Under 19, Ontario rep basketball…a JUEL League Championship title. They earned it with a gritty 61-49 win over the previously undefeated London Ramblers at the University of Waterloo.
The win was a sweet one for Huskies Head Coach, Jason Sealy, who was proud that the players moving on from his program, ended off on a high note.
“Every win is a great win. It’s a great way for our 7 graduates that are moving on, for them to end things. Winning this for them, is the reward at the highest level. ”
The JUEL Playoff weekend started on Friday, May 4 with each of the teams beginning their run to the Championship, followed mix and mingle at the league’s banquet on Friday night. It was there that Sealy heard the inspirational words that he would use to fuel his team for the remainder of the weekend, from a speech given by Chantal Vallée, Head Coach of the defending back-to-back CIS Womens Basketball Champion Windsor Lancers.
“What Chantal spoke about was that average and ordinary people are basically the people that lose. There’s only one winner, and that winner consistently does extraordinary things. We used that theme this weekend. And, we said that it had to be consistent, you got to step out of your comfort zone and you got to do more. If that was coming to[wards] passes, holding your seal a little bit longer, you know, those little things and everybody just bought into that this weekend.”
That theme resonated with Husky leader, both on and off the court, Lindsay Shotbolt.
“It just came down to hard work, who wanted the ball first, getting on the ground, being aggressive and if we were winning those battles, we knew that we would be able to get a win.”
With the right frame of mind down pat, it was then on to executing the right game plan. The regular season meeting between these two teams saw the Ramblers win 57-53 back on March 25. But despite the setback at the time, Shotbolt wanted to encourage the Huskies letting them know that despite loosing that game, there was reason for optimism if they ever had the opportunity to play them again.
“When we met them in the regular season, [we had]only eight players and we lost by five points. So, when the rest of our team came back, we were just telling everybody to just stay calm, we can get these guys back” she assured.
It was lessons learned during that first encounter that formed the basis of the game plan for North Toronto in the Championship Final. Sealy and his coaching staff, after performing their scouting, while respecting London’s shooting ability, wanted to test their ability to shoot the 3-ball by focusing primarily on keeping a tight zone coverage.
“Last time we played zone the whole game because we were extremely short handed then. So, our goal was, ‘if they were going to beat us, they were going to beat us beyond the arc’. They did shoot pretty good in the First Quarter when we went zone, we went to man[-to-man] and tried to disrupt things for them, and still keep them ‘out there’. And that disrupted things for them. And then our kids, we converted on our end.”
One of the key factors working in the favor of the Huskies, was that Sealy was able to rely on go-to team members that got the job done throughout the season, in this, their biggest game of the year. North Toronto enjoyed some good representation throughout the season in the Individual League Leaders categories from Cheyanne Rogers (FG%, Blocks), Julia Soriano (Assists), Shotbolt (Scoring, Rebounding), Carly Nugent (FT%) and Sami Hill (Assists) and it was many of those names that he tried desperately to remember when asked about contributions players made during the Championship Finals.
“You know, Cheyanne had a big game, Julia, was a creator.” He also went to mention that “Shotbolt did Shotbolt”, no doubt referring to the all-around, very effective utility role that Lindsay Shotbolt can fill, getting it done at the point, in the paint and on the glass. Pleased with the function that everyone on his team played he went on to say, “Our kids that do the heavy lifting, did the heavy lifting. And kids like Patricia Palcu filled in a little bit, you know, Carly did a little bit, Kayla [Gordon] did a little bit, Oceana [Hamilton] did a little bit and that’s how we went and did it. Overall team effort.”
Head Coach Sealy was quite emotional when making his speech during the awards ceremony, further emphasizing the bond that he has grown accustomed to with this group of girls and their families. It is a bond that he truly appreciates. The parents, who could often be heard doing a ‘Husky Howl’ from the stands to encourage their team, were thanked numerous times for their overwhelming involvement and support.
So what’s next for the North Toronto Huskies? Although there will be some big holes to fill, Sealy is encouraged by the core of girls that will be remaining.
“What we see right now is that we have five returning players for next year: Cheyanne Roger, Oceanna Hamilton, Savannah Hamilton, Carly Nugent and Sarah Saftich. I mean I don’t know what the competition is going to look like next year, but we feel we can be in the medal conversation again next year with the talent we got returning.”
And although the Huskies will be looking to take their foot off the gas a bit during the summer months, they will still look to get some time in the gym to improve their games, but keeping the group together for AAU play isn’t a priority for Sealy.
“I’m a little old school where as I believe that summer is about training, you know, getting some active rest, but also building your skills and building your strength. So, we do meet once a week in the summer, we work on certain areas that we feel are necessary for us to be successful in the next year and for players’ individual development. It also gives us the opportunity to see some new recruits they come in and workout over the summer, so that’s what we do. Some of the kids do travel with A-Game, Canada Drive and programs like that and some of our graduates will just come and workout with us and stay fresh for their universities.”