Kendra VanLeeuwen was in Grade 3 when her dad brought home the first of what would become a long string of consecutive senior girls basketball titles as a coach of the St. John’s College Green Eagles.
On Monday, VanLeeuwen scored a game-high 24 points and was 15-for-17 from the free-throw line to lead the Green Eagles to their seventh consecutive title with a 58-50 win over the Assumption College Lions.
“It feels good because (the Lions) are such a hard competitor,” the standout Grade 9 player said. “We’ve been battling all year and either team could have won this game. But it feels amazing that we came out on top.”
Kendra’s dad, Steve VanLeeuwen, and fellow coaches Matt Lynch and Gina Tarantello will now look to take the St. John’s team through the CWOSSA tournament this weekend in Guelph and ultimately on to the OFSAA championship in London beginning on Nov. 24.
The trio of coaches helped St. John’s capture the provincial championship in 2009.
To advance to the CWOSSA tournament, the Green Eagles had to rally from a Game 2 loss last Thursday to defeat the Lions in Game 3 of the best-of-three championship series at North Park Collegiate on Monday.
“It feels great knowing that we finally topped them in such a game to remember,” St. John’s player Lauren Dubois said.
Down after Game 1 of the series last Tuesday, the Lions emerged on top with their backs against the wall on Thursday by squeezing out a 55-53 win in Game 2.
Coming into Monday’s deciding game, each team had gotten the best of the other on two occasions during the regular season and playoffs combined.
“I’m very proud of the way the girls played,” Lions coach Rick Baldin said. “The only disappointment in my heart – and I challenge OFSAA on this – is that the teams you are going to see at CWOSSA, we beat at tournaments all year. We are not going to get a chance to represent our city even though we may have been able to beat St. John’s at CWOSSA.”
The Brant high school league gets to send just one AAAA sized school on to CWOSSA. Meanwhile, the AAA CWOSSA tournament, being played in Brantford this weekend, will feature Brant’s third-place North Park Collegiate Trojans and fourth-place BCI Mustangs.
Baldin said he was proud of the way the season ended for Assumption, with his team fighting back from a deficit as wide as 14 points to tie the game in the fourth quarter on Monday.
After the Lions finally clawed their way to even, tying the score 43-43 at 5:14 of the fourth quarter, Dubois killed their momentum with a crucial three-point shot that swung the game back in favour of St. John’s.
“It’s all about not thinking about the shot,” Dubois said of the basket that gave the Green Eagles a lead they never relinquished. “It’s going through the motions. I was open and I made the shot.”
The Lions tried sending the Green Eagles to the free-throw line to get the ball back during the dying minutes, but VanLeeuwen and Bridget Monkman both made Assumption pay for the decision as they stretched out the ACS lead.
Monkman finished four-for-four from the line with 10 points, while Brianna Bavota had nine points, including a pair of crucial three-pointers in the first half.
Abby Heron and Rikayla Baldin led the Lions with 12 points apiece.