The only team to give the Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers a scare during the regular high school senior girls basketball season gave them another one Thursday.
Ultimately, though, the Sydenham Golden Eagles, a team whose “overall hard-nosed play was difficult to stop,” were unsuccessful in handing Regi its first loss of the season, but in dropping a 41-37 semifinal decision to the Panthers, the Eagles earned a tremendous amount of respect.
“Wow,” Panthers coach Lesley Stevenson wrote in an email. “That team came to play. (Their) heart and tenacity was nothing to take lightly.”
For the Panthers, the Sydenham performance was eerily reminiscent of the teams’ regular-season meeting, when visiting Regi needed a three-point basket at the buzzer of the second overtime period to gain a 37-34 victory.
In a 9-0 campaign where the average margin of victory was 22.5 points, the Panthers allowed no one else to get so close, and on only one other occasion did a team get within 15 points.
“After the match up in Sydenham, this team knew we were ripe for the picking,” Stevenson wrote. “Their defence, their shooting … was difficult to stop. Hats off to them for their never-say-die attitude.”
The Eagles went ahead by four points in the third quarter but Regi rallied. A three-point basket by Hailey Wolfgram tied the game, and the Panthers, playing what Steverson characterized as “tough, poised basketball” prevailed, and in so doing claimed a berth in Monday night’s Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association championship game at the Queen’s University Athletics and Recreation Centre.
“We were tempted to play the super fast, very rushed tempo that the Sydenham girls were forcing,” Stevenson wrote, “but the experience of our seniors proved to be turning point.”
Wolfgram finished with a game-best 20 points, while teammate Emma Lefebvre scored 11, five of them in the last two minutes of the game. Brittany Patterson and Megan Bowman scored 11 points apiece for Sydenham.
“Our third quarter has proven to be a slow one for us,” Stevenson wrote. “We will have to gather ourselves to get ready for the very tough competition we will face in the championship game.”
In that contest, Regi will play the Holy Cross Crusaders, who won their semifinal Thursday, 47-31, at home, over the La Salle Black Knights. With that victory, the Crusaders earned a chance at redeeming a 44-29 home-court defeat from Regi Oct. 20, a loss that would prove to be the only one Holy Cross would sustain in the regular year.
The teams will be competing not only for the KASSAA championship Monday, but, as the sole triple-A schools in eastern Ontario, a direct berth in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament, Nov. 26-28 in Windsor.