Travelling is nothing new for the Sudbury Jam U15 team. The eight-girl roster traveled from northern Ontario to participate at bballnationals this weekend, but playing on the road is something the team specializes in.
“Travelling is just something that we’re used to doing, its something that we have to do,” said Head Coach Bruce Bourget, “we travel for 4 hours to Toronto to play our games—sometimes to Hamilton—so we drive a lot.”
That being said, getting on a plane and flying to an away game was a completely different experience for the players. Some girls had never been to B.C before, or even on a plane, making the tournament one to remember.
“After a while you get used to the driving and it’s not really a big deal,” Sudbury player, Delaney Bourget, said of the team’s regular season travel, “but I’ve never been on a plane ride that long before, so it was actually a really cool experience.”
The national aspect of bballnationals was also very enticing, the Head Coach said, getting the opportunity to play other Canadian teams that the team has never seen before is refreshing.
Due to their strong performance at the Ontario provincials last year, the team was invited to play in the Ontario Basketball League (OBL) this year, and competed in an elite division, playing in an older age group.
“We were really lucky to play at the U16 level and we came second in the league, which we’re really happy with,” Bourget said of the team’s season this year, “it was a really good experience because the older players are faster and grittier and that ultimately it makes us better.”
Sudbury center, Emelie Lafond echoed her coach’s attitude, “I think [playing a year up] showed us a lot of different things, and taught us how to deal with things under pressure,” she said of the team’s experience, “playing against older girls who had more knowledge taught us a lot.”
The team is bringing that knowledge and skill to the national tournament this weekend, and have already proved themselves as strong contenders to win the national title. With impressive performances on Friday and Saturday the team has a balanced roster, with several talented players who perform consistently on the court.
In their first game Mireille DiMaio, Jadyn Weltz, and Dylan Mazzuchin each had 10 points. Emelie Lafond led the team in scoring, as she snuck by her teammates with 13 points. In their second game Sudbury upset home team, VK Basketball, 50-41.
“It’s a different style of play from British Columbia versus Ontario,” said Jam player, Jadyn Weltz of the tournament so far, “it’s more physical, but all in all it’s good to have different competition and watch different teams play.”
During play on Saturday, the team used their quick ball movement to create shot opportunities. Delaney Bourget took advantage of the openings to shoot from the outside, successfully sinking six, three-pointers, in the team’s game against Calgary.
“They’re really great kids who like to work hard and play unselfish basketball,” the coach said of the team, “our focus is hugely on fundamental skills and player developmental—we primarily let the kids read the defense and play and make decisions,” Coach Bourget said of what he focuses on in practice.
Going into tournament play on Sunday, the team is planning on doing much of the same.
“What we’ve been saying all weekend is concentrate on what we do best—certain habits and certain decisions,” Bourget said of what he tells his athletes, “the effort and the team play is what’s important.”