The Ottawa Guardsmen Juvenile girls have just one hurdle
left to complete their dominant 20-0 basketball season against Ontario’s top
under-17 teams, and they’re planning to take that final step to the top of the
podium at the May 6-8 provincial championships in Kitchener and Waterloo.
“At the beginning of the year, I knew this was going to be a
good team, but I didn’t know that we were going to be this good,” says
14-year-old Team Ontario member Sarah Shewan, a 6’ 1” forward who is poised as
the region’s next star. Despite being the youngest Guardsmen U17 player, she’s
already an impact player. “It’s really been a surprise to me to be on such a
great team, with such a great coach.”
The Guardsmen took gold in all four of their Ontario
Basketball Association tournaments in Scarborough, Waterloo, Brampton and
Hamilton earlier this year, winning all games except for two by significant
margins, including one 80-point victory.
“They all work really hard and what’s really nice about us
is that our first player and our 10th player are all equally as skilled,”
explains coach Laura Bond, a Nepean High School and Wilfrid Laurier University
grad. “They really push each other. Everybody has a partner in practice that is
as good as them, so every drill is competitive all the time.”
The team also benefits from the competitive vibe of
practicing in the Ravens Nest, frequently under the eye of Carleton University
women’s coach Taffe Charles.
“Here, we have access to the best coaches in Canada,” adds
Bond, who teaches the Ravens’ systems to the group of potential future
recruits. “It’s a really well organized program.”
It’s not a coincidence the University of Ottawa-affiliated
Next Level club is one of the few opponents that have offered the Guardsmen a
tough challenge this year. In a January tournament, the Guardsmen had to scrape
by Next Level 50-49 in a nail-biting semi-final before cruising past Caledon
51-15 in the championship game.
Next Level also won a tournament in March the Guardsmen
didn’t attend, which helped them earn a No. 3 provincial ranking behind their
top-rated city rivals.
“I honestly can’t remember the last time this has happened,”
Bond notes. “I think it’s a testament to the coaching in the area and the
university coaches committing to making club ball a lot better.”
Set up on opposite sides of the draw at provincials, there’s
the potential for the two Ottawa squads to meet in the Ontario gold medal
“We definitely don’t want to lose to them,” states 6’ 3”
Guardsmen centre Heather Lindsay, a Grade 11 Nepean High School student. “It
would be awful to lose to another Ottawa team in the finals for provincials.”
The only other club to give the Guardsmen trouble this year
was the Toronto Triple Threat. Down to just seven players due to injuries in
one tournament final, the Guardsmen needed a furious eight-point comeback in
the final minute to force overtime, which they went on to win with a
That was the top accomplishment thus far this season, but
maintaining the goose egg in the loss column adds a little bit of extra
pressure heading into provincials, Bond acknowledges.
“The girls know that they have a huge target on their
backs,” she notes. “It’s the first time we’ve been in the position where we’re
the ones everyone’s gunning for, so we have to make sure that we’re not getting
big egos and that we’re still thinking about that goal every practice.”
The Guardsmen players don’t believe overconfidence is an
issue because they’ve continued to push themselves to constantly improve.
“We always go out there and do our best,” says Shewan, a
former Russell Rocket who forms a powerful partnership with Stittsville guard
Lauren Smail for the Guardsmen. “And now
we want to finish what we started.”
There will be another Ottawa team looking to cap a dominant
season on the May 6-8 weekend in Kitchener and Waterloo during the inaugural
U19 Junior Elite League championship tournament. The 19-1 Nationals are the
top-ranked team heading into the competition.
This past weekend, 77 teams from all over Ontario descended
on gyms across the city for the girls’ U15 Major Midget Ontario Cup
championships. The top-ranked local team, the Ottawa Shooting Stars, went 0-3
in Div. 2 play, while Hamilton’s Transway Basketball won the title in the
province’s top division over the London Ramblers.