THUNDER BAY – The St. Ignatius Falcons have done what no other high school senior girls basketball team has done since 2012 – stop the Hammarskjold Vikings in the playoffs.
Led by guard Andie Maylen’s nine points and a stellar defensive effort that wreaked havoc with the Vikings offensive game plan, the Falcons downed their arch rivals 42-38 on Monday night to capture their first championship in five years, stopping Hammarskjold’s four-year run.
“It’s awesome. I love my team so much. We worked so hard to get here and it’s just a great feeling,” said Maylen, who gave St. Ignatius the lead for good, burying a three-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer, the Falcons taking an 8-6 lead they’d never relinquish.
St. Ignatius had two chances to capture the crown in the double knock-out format employed by the Superior Secondary Schools Athletic Association, but erased the need for a decisive Game 2 on Tuesday with the win.
“Having your home gym is an advantage,” the 16-year-old Grade 11 student said.
“We practice here all the time, this is where we always are and it definitely is a lot more motivation trying to defend your home. I think that really helped us out.”
Teammate Nicole Pocion chipped in eight points, matching the totals put up by Mariah MacFarlane and Bryanna Baker, who left early in the third quarter with a knee injury and did not return.
Pocion, 17, said the Falcons have been gunning for the Vikings all season long – the team that handed them their only loss to date, a 54-46 defeat in the season opener for both squads.
“When I was in Grade 9 we lost to Hamm and then we beat them in the final the next year,” the 17-year-old Pocion said. “Finally my Grade 12 year is the cherry on top. We’ve been working for this for a very long time.”
It wasn’t the prettiest win in basketball history, but first-year coach Carolyn Fragale, a former star guard with the Lakehead Thunderwolves, said it still feels pretty good.
“It’s a great feeling. It’s my first year coaching senior. I’ve coached a lot of these girls throughout the past four years now. It’s something we’ve been working on, not just this year but throughout the past three years with this group,” Fragale said.
“We came in pretty prepared from our last game. We had film on them, we knew all their plays and have been working toward them since our first and only loss this year, which was against them. The target has been on their back for a long time.”
The Vikings took the early lead in an opening quarter that saw just one basket in the opening six minutes.
Up two to start the second, the Falcons pushed the lead to eight by the half, Baker grabbing an offensive board and putting it up and in at the halftime buzzer.
A bucket by Pocion and back-to-back Baker hoops stretched the lead to 14 early in the third, but an Alyson Korolenko three-pointer ignited a 7-0 Hammarskjold run and the St. Ignatius lead was just eight after three.
Autum Ziebarth, who had 13 second-half points to lead the Vikings, cut the deficit to five with two minutes to go and then to four with 11.4 seconds left in regulation, but it was too little, too late.