After coming ever so close on home turf, so to speak, losing in the championship final of the Nickel City Invitational High-School Girls Basketball Tournament, the Macdonald-Cartier Panthères would seal the deal away from home.
Competing at the Sault College Tournament last weekend, the locals bettered three straight Thunder Bay opponents before ousting a hometown crew in the final. With veteran Clara Yanchuk asserting herself at both ends of the court, the Panthères downed the St. Ignatius Falcons 55-22 in their opener, building some momentum right out of the gate.
"This is probably the best game I have seen Clara play, both defensively and offensively," said ESMC head coach Sebastien Gervais. "She was our high scorer, and was making defensive plays."
Facing the Hammarskjold High-School Vikings in game two, Macdonald-Cartier rode the hot hand of Arielle Douillette, as the talented teen drained three quick three-point baskets, helping lead her team to a 51-21 triumph.
Posting a convincing 52-18 victory over the Westgate Tigers in game three, Gervais and company were able to fully utilize their bench depth, with several players contributing anywhere from six to ten points in a very balanced offense.
The gold medal affair opposite the Korah Colts produced easily the most physical match-up of the tournament for Macdonald-Cartier, as the squad relied heavily on the imposing presence of Cloé Douillette and Dayna Fairwell in the paint, pulling away from the Colts, 57-34, in the end.
"I also need to highlight the major contributions of our floor general, Ariane Saumure, who was a force on the defensive end, putting pressure on opposing point guards," said Gervais.
"We also got fantastic games out of Kaitlyn Winn (a force on defense), Mila Coco (great on the boards), Callie Moore (slashing to the rim) and Lexine Moyle (casually drained her first ever 3-point basket in senior play)."
Just a few weeks earlier, the Panthères had gone toe to toe with the northern Ontario powerhouse O'Gorman Knights from Timmins, losing in the tournament final at Laurentian University, 43-38.
The Korah Colts claimed the consolation crown with a 44-43 win over the St. Mary's Knights, also from Sault Ste Marie, while the bronze medal encounter would see Collingwood Collegiate Institute better the Algonquin Barons from North Bay, 42-29.
The senior all-star team included both Ariane Saumure and Arielle Douillette, as well as the O'Gorman tandem of Ally Burke and Jadyn Weltz. In junior action, bragging rights were scooped up by the Orillia Secondary School Blues, thanks to a 59-37 win over the Sudbury Jam.
The junior consolation banner went to Korah, thanks to a close 37-36 decision over the Collège Notre-Dame Alouettes, while the third place game had Collingwood Collegiate Institute clipping the Lo-Ellen Park Knights 40-35.
Junior all-stars of note included Orillia star Lilja Toland as well as Syla Swords of the Jam.