For the sixth time in its 42-year history, the Gloucester-Cumberland Basketball Association is celebrating an Ontario youth championship.
In mid-May, the Wolverines girls’ U17 basketball team was relentless on the court and stormed its way to three convincing preliminary-round and two playoff victories, which led to the Ontario Basketball Association age-group championship in Fonthill.
The Wolverines won two provincial titles with coach Murray Shoup (girls’ U17 in 2005 and girls’ U19 in 2006) and later with coach Daren Pemberton (boys’ U16 in 2018 and boys’ U17 in 2019) following their first title in 1999 (girls’ U16, coached by Bruce Foster and Larry Ellison).
“We were really happy for the girls,” said Wolverines girls’ U17 head coach Hans Schryburt in a phone interview. “When you win most of your games all year, you want to win the most important ones.
“To win a provincial championship for a club is rare. But they are a well-deserved bunch of girls.”
The 2022-23 basketball season was truly memorable for the Wolverines girls’ U17 squad. Playing with only nine players and the occasional call-up to bolster the team, the Wolverines finished their season winning four of five tournaments, capturing the Ontario Basketball League Excellence pennant with a 12-0 record and posting an overall win-loss mark of 41-3.
Their last five wins came on the Ontario championship weekend as the Wolverines scored an average of 55.2 points a game and were stingy on defence, permitting only 29.2 points a game.
In the provincial preliminary round May 12-13, the Wolverines defeated DK Dragons 73-28, the Milton Stags 55-23 and SBA 40-32. During the May 14 elimination playoffs, the Wolverines were in full control, turning back Burlington Basketball 50-25 in the semifinals and Kitchener Waterloo Girls’ Basketball Association 56-38 in the final.
When Schryburt and his coaching staff held tryouts last September, 25 girls stepped forward and 11 made the team. But by the time Schryburt submitted his final roster in November, he was down to nine, having lost two players for personal reasons.
“We were lucky to avoid injury,” Schryburt explained. “It was a good thing. We were nervous for injuries, but we were confident in the group for its commitment. The girls had a good, strong bond.
“We mostly played having nine. You must count on everyone. It’s not equal play, but we often subbed-in players and everyone got plenty of minutes to develop.”
The Wolverines didn’t overdo it as they practised twice a week and played league, tournament or exhibition games every second or third weekend from last September to May.
Before the start of their season, the Wolverines applied to the OBA to play in the top OBLX group and were accepted based on the club’s recent past record and history.
After a fourth-place finish at the 2022 Ontario championships, the Wolverines girls’ U17 team was the class of their age group this season, winning a tournament in Newmarket and the Chris Paulin and Gloucester Wolverines tournaments in Ottawa as well as provincials. They also were third at a tournament in Barrie, ON.
“One of the things we’re most proud of is we didn’t allow anyone to score 40 points against us,” Schryburt said about his team’s performance in five provincial-championship games. “We’re a defensive, scrappy team.
“We made it difficult on teams to score and we have good athletes who have a knack to score.”
The coaching staff knew the Wolverines girls’ U17 team had the potential to be a successful squad.
“We knew we had something on our hands,” Schryburt added. “We knew we had speed and general athleticism. We knew with that everything would be easier.
“Nobody outran us and we knew we could score. With speed you can play defence. We used our speed all the time. We pushed the ball up and were creative.
“We kept it simple and asked the girls to find the best shot possible. We wanted to develop the kids first and let them create basic actions. Off quick actions, you look for your teammates.”
Since the Wolverines only had nine players, they played a lot of two-on-two or three-against-three in practices to develop their skills and fitness.
“There was a commitment to making life difficult on others,” Schryburt said. “There was a commitment to defence. We tried to run for 32 minutes (a full game) and took pride in ourselves running from start to finish.”
The Wolverines girls’ U17 roster featured players Dania Dumel Wiggins, Tressa Sutherland, Maya Charles, Dayna Holbein, Makella Desjardins, Maria Murray, Gabriela Uyanze, Kaitlyn Harvey, Alexia Schryburt and Sophie Cote and coaches Hans Schryburt, Andre Desjardins and Irene Cote.