Matching two teams with very little to choose between them, one extended run was all that it would take to decide a winner.
With the Sudbury Jam and Timmins Selects tied at 16-16 at half-time of their Ontario Cup Basketball Ontario U17 Division I final Sunday afternoon at the Ben Avery Gym, the locals came out strong in quarter No. 3.
Outscoring the Selects 15-9 and receiving 10 points from Andrea Zulich alone, the Jam grabbed control of the contest, never relinquishing the lead en route to a 35-30 gold-medal win over Timmins.
The teams have waged their share of fierce back-and-forth battles this year, and this one was no exception. Down 4-0 early, the Jam stormed back as Laura Graham, back from a nasty spill in the tournament opener on Friday, nailed the first of her two first-half three-point baskets.
But with time winding down in the half, Timmins overcame a 16-10 deficit when Cassandra Desrosiers and Melanie Marin hit in rapid succession from beyond the arc.
“We were pretty upset, because we let them get wide open threes," said Zulich after the game.
"But we tried to think of it as a clean slate, a new game."
The approach paid dividends as Sudbury struck quickly, with Megan Desormeaux connecting for a troika of her own. But it was the play of Zulich, opportunistic offensively and tenacious defensively, that really made the difference.
"I think the opportunities were there for me," she said. "When Laura (Graham) was out early in the tournament, I thought I had to step up. But really, this was all about everyone doing their part."
The Jam led 31-25 after three quarters, with neither team able to generate much in the way of a sustained offence through the final eight minutes. For their part, the Sudbury girls were more than willing to simply trade baskets, getting another big three from Desormeaux in the fourth to offset the same from Marin.
While it might not have been the finest hour offensively for the Jam, there was little to critique in terms of their defensive effort.
"We came out focused on really strong 'on-ball' defence and 'help-side' defence," said Zulich.
"They are very strong attackers. This game, we were there to cut them off and force them to kick out, and then move quickly to the ball again."
Indeed, the Sudbury ladies did a nice job of limiting the effectiveness of Timmins sparkplug Kayla Deschatelets, as well as the inside presence of Cassidy Sabourin.
No surprise that success at one end feeds the same at the other.
"When I get a steal or a block, it's one of the best feelings in the world," admitted Zulich. "Then you're all pumped up and it builds your confidence. And when you're confident shooting, it usually goes in."
The linescore for the gold-medal game was as follows:
Sudbury Jam 35 - Andrea Zulich (12), Laura Graham (9), Kristen Ferguson (6), Megan Desormeaux (6), Nicole Conlin (2)
Timmins Selects 30 - Kayla Deschatelets (7), Cassidy Sabourin (6), Melanie Marin (6), Cassandra Desrosiers (5), Krysta Beaudry (2), Kim Caron (2), Skyla Caron (2)
In a very exciting bronze-medal game that preceded the final, the Durham Eclipse edged Cornwall United 37-36, coming from behind to steal the win. The 2013-2014 edition of the Sudbury Jam U17 girls basketball team includes: Laura Graham, Kristen Ferguson, Emily Hreljac, Nicole Conlin, Megan Desormeaux, Sheila Fyfe, Andrea Zulich, Bailey Laforest, Emily Derks and coaches John Desormeaux and Rod McHugh.