Written by Jas Grewal
The Canadian Youth Basketball League Showdown Championship Finals took place in at Holy Trinity School in Richmond Hill, On on April, 19th as the Junior and Senior Girl’s finals were set to begin.
The gritty and hardworking Jayhawks – who have maintained their dominance atop the Junior Girl’s division- looked to battle it out for the CYBL crown against their cross-province rivals in OYBA Capitals– an Ottawa based club.
In the Senior Girl’s Division, No Limit Performance looked to rehash their rivalry against a tough Canada Elite club who they previously routed a few weeks back. There’s no doubt that Canada Elite were seeking retribution, and even more important, a CYBL Championship medal in Sunday’s matinee.
Game One: Jayhawks vs. OYBL
The Jayhawks are well known around CYBL circles as a group of hardworking, passionate girls who may lack size from a physical standpoint, but compensate for that void in the heart and hustle department. Sunday’s battle against a much bigger OYBA club was a shining example of the Jayhawk’s relentless pursuit on the court. It also helped that their fans, who seemingly took ‘fan support’ to a whole new level with their colourful cheers, were making their presence felt on the sidelines.
The first half turned out to be a relatively balanced battle as both clubs struggled to score in the opening five minutes. For the Jayhawks, much of the struggle to score was the result of their deficiencies in the height department and being unable to score over the out-stretched arms of the OYBA bigs.
For OYBA, their issue stemmed from their inability to finish inside despite being much bigger– much of their failure to score inside was because of the Jayhawks’ gang-rebounding strategy where almost every player blitzed the paint for rebounds or when an OYBA player tried to attack the paint. OYBA also struggled to score from the perimeter as the Jayhawks played smothering, stifling defence, making it difficult for anyone in an OYBA jersey to move around, let alone put the ball in the hoop.
After 18 minutes of regulation where both teams struggled to gain a sizeable lead, the Jayhawks found themselves up three, 19-16, with another half left to decide the victor.
One of the biggest flaws of OYBA was their inability to handle the ball, especially when the Jayhawks put forth an effective full court press. As a result, OYBA turned the ball over too many times for anyone’s liking, thus giving up a myriad of points off of turnovers.
Mikayla Samuel put the Jayhawks on her back as she was able to shoot the seams on countless possessions, creating opportunities to score inside against a wall of trees or kick it out to the perimeter for an open shot. Her handle game was on point in Sunday’s contest.
But the second half heroics, or rather, offensive rebounding of OYBA, and more specifically, Morgana Hinds, was the true x-factor in this contest. Although OYBA struggled to finish inside, their ability to accumulate second-chance opportunities cost the Jayhawks a ton of points, and as a result, their chance at the CYBL junior girl’s championship. Jayhawks scored most of their points off of fast breaks and off-ball cuts for easy baskets, but when OYBA decided to dominate the offensive rebounds many of those once easy opportunities were subsequently non-existent.
At the end of it OYBA were able to hold on for the five-point win, 45-40, over a disappointed and thwarted Jayhawks team.
Morgana Hinds led her OYBA champions with 10 points including a monster night in the rebounding department and was also named Showdown MVP.
Mikayla Samuel poured in a game-high18 points in the Jayhawks loss.
Senior Girls: No Limit Performance vs Canada Elite
Perhaps the most coveted and anticipated game in the CYBL Showdown came between a persistent No Limit Performance club and a hungry and athletic Canada Elite squad—two clubs who have shared an interesting past with one another, with No Limit Performance getting the most recent win at the Hoop Dome a few weeks back. There’s no doubt that these two teams have had an underlying dislike for one another, which made this contest even more of a pleasure to watch.
The first half was a bit of a struggle for Canada Elite as they seemed to rush most of their shots and even had trouble scoring on the inside against a gangly No Limit frontcourt. By the nine minute mark of the first half No Limit found themselves up 11-2 against a disjointed Canada Elite club.
Canada Elite, as mentioned before, seemed to be extremely anxious and almost apprehensive which resulted in a ton of quick shots and easy baskets for No Limit.
But even though behind by double-digits at one point, the ladies in black were able to scratch and claw their way back to cut the deficit to five at halftime, 26-21.
No Limit’s consistent and unselfish willingness to put their teammates first is partly why they have had so much success against Canada Elite.
Ally Peek led No Limit in the scoring column in the first half with nine points, including a couple of trifectas to stretch their lead. Avolyn “Bridgette” Sharp matched Peek’s first half scoring output with nine, as well.
Perhaps the most intense and entertaining 18 minutes of any CYBL girl’s game this past weekend came in the second half of this contest. Tempers were flaring and each girl, on both sides, was ready for a gritty, tough final half of regulation.
Canada Elite, behind the never-stopping engine that is Bridgette Sharp, were able to rush back and take the lead, momentarily, over an shocked No Limit squad. Sharp took a good number of shots in the second half, and rightfully so – as the undersized point guard was relentless in her drives to the basket and drew a ton of fouls and connected on a good number of layins. It was a two-on-two battle in the final half as Sharp and Tiffany Reynolds scored the majority of Canada Elite’s second half points, while leader and superb floor general Haille Nickerson and Emily Nacarato did their duties in the scoring column for No Limit.
The final minutes of the game were a back and forth affair as each team continuously traded baskets, making it difficult for any team to take control of the game.
With a minute to go and down four, Sharp was able to sneak in for a clutch layup to cut the deficit to two, resulting in a timeout call for No Limit. In the ensuing possession, with her club down two and off of a No Limit miss, Sharp put her team on her shoulders as she drove in for another clutch, game-tying layup. No Limit had less than nine seconds to respond with a game winner, but Nickerson – tired and battered- was unable to finish a difficult layup in the dying seconds of regulation. The result was overtime.
In the extra frame, with both clubs scratching and clawing to gain supremacy, only will and determination would get them over the fatigue hump- a hurdle that comes with the territory in the game of hoops.
Canada Elite, with less than a minute remaining in overtime, found themselves up three after a made free throw by Nikki Ylagan and a converted layup by Sharp. With her club down three and with only a handful of seconds on the clock, Nickerson drove into the heart of Canada Elite’s interior only to kick it out to Peek for the clutch, game-tying three pointer, which, as a result, took us to double overtime.
After another back-and-forth affair in the second overtime, No Limit saw themselves up two, 61-59. But Sharp, who was unequivocally the best player on the court throughout the entire afternoon, was able to knock down another go ahead three, thus giving Canada Elite the one point advantage. But after Emani Clough was able to get the timely steal on Nickerson and subsequently lay it in for a three point advantage, it seemed as though the air was seeping through the ball for No Limit.
But it was No Limit’s Nickerson’s turn to retaliate. The floor general, with seconds remaining on the clock, pushed it up the court against a swarming full court press and hoisted up a Hail Mary three to which the star player unimaginably connected on, sending shockwaves through Holy Trinity’s building foundation. The entire gym was up in arms and No Limit regained a sense of hope, while Canada Elite struggled to salvage any sort of energy for the third overtime.
In the final moments of the game, now in triple OT, No Limit took a quick three point advantage which Sharp and Reynolds responded back to with a couple of their own layups. But in the end, it was No Limit who held on for the one point win, 69-68, over a disheartened and extremely disappointed Canada Elite club.
No Limit Performance, full of joy and emotion as they jumped up and down in happiness were thus able to capture the Senior Girls CYBL Showdown Championship.
Nickerson, the Showdown MVP, led No Limit with 18 points in the win and was stellar throughout all the sessions. Nickerson is still undecided on where she will attend University next season.
Sharp and Reynolds poured in 29 and 20, respectively, in the loss. Both showed they are going to be a force to reckoned with in the summer AAU season as well.
Written by Jas Grewal
Senior Showdown Champions: No Limit Performance
Junior Showdown Champions: OYBL Capitals