Vikings, Falcons advance
The arrival of the 2012 Thunder Bay high school senior girls basketball season brings plenty of change and three early contenders looking to make a run at the city championship.
However, looming over it all is a possible cancellation due to the ongoing labour woes between the Ontario government and the public teachers union that could result in a work-to-rule order which would shelve high school sports.
Some players are just trying to focus on the game.
“We’re just preparing and getting ready to build our team. That’s all you can do,” said Hammarskjold Vikings forward Aliisa Heiskanen after her team’s 81-10 win over the Dryden Eagles Friday at the Lakehead University Applebee’s/Pizza Hut pre-season tournament.
Twelve schools from across Northern Ontario entered the tournament with thoughts on the start to their respective regular seasons next week.
“We have no idea right now what’s going to happen,” said Churchill Trojans co-coach Paul Wojda. “We had a coaches meeting (Thursday) and someone asked that question and no one had a definitive answer as to what was going to happen. It’s really all still up in the air.
“We’re happy to have this while we can and get some games in,” he added. “We’re going as if the season goes ahead. In the fall, if things change, we’ll adapt from there.”
This season, the Ontario high school sports governing bodies are adopting FIBA rules across the board. The new rules have 10-minute quarters (as opposed to eight) and a 30-second shot clock (as opposed to none).
“It’s not like it’s a big rush,” said Wojda of the 30 seconds. “But you’re definitely not going to be able to hold the ball for three or four minutes to run out the clock like some teams have done in the past. It will bring a new dynamic to the finals for sure.”
Wojda’s Trojans lost to the St. Ignatius Falcons in last year’s Thunder Bay final. The Falcons went on to reach the Ontario quarter-finals. Three starters from that squad — Cassandra Soulias, Katelyn Andrea and Maggie Murphy — are back and looked sharp Friday, routing Kapuskasing and Kenora’s Beaver Brae by an average of 43 points to qualify for today’s semifinals. They’ll face Timmins-based Theriault today at 10:30 a.m.
“The one thing we lacked last year was height,” St. Ignatius coach Franco Veneruzzo said. “This year we have three girls who are six-one, six-feet and five-11 which helps now because we have a little athleticism as well. We’re looking good. . . . Hammarskjold has a good crop of juniors coming up as well. They’ll be some of our top contenders.”
Vikings Heiskanen and Shannon McKitrick are the city’s two most promising senior rookies. They represented Thunder Bay on Team North at the Ontario Summer Games after leading Hammarskjold to a perfect season in the junior division last fall.
“We’ve got to play different people than we normally play so we could practice our skills with people we haven’t played before,” Heiskanen said of her summer experience.
All but three of this year’s Vikings were part of that junior squad. They won both their games Friday to also advance to the semifinals against White Pines (Sault Ste. Marie) today.
While the Catholic teachers board has a contract intact, Veneruzzo said there’s a chance the season can be saved.
“My hope is that if the public teachers do decide to take some form of action on work-to-rule . . . that they don’t do it mid-season and that they have enough courtesy to finish this series of athletic season,” he said. “That would disrupt the kids that had been working for the first couple of weeks or a month. Halfway through their season to all of a sudden pull the plug would be pretty unfair.