It was fitting that St. James Lions captain Grace Mencfeld scored the first and last points of Saturday night’s District 10 high school senior girls’ basketball championship match at the Guelph Gryphons Athletic Centre.
Her buckets helped the Lions claim their first league title since 2003 as they defeated the Centennial Spartans 45-38.
Mencfeld is the St. James player other teams try to take out of the game, but most times it doesn’t work.
“Grace is an X factor,” St. James coach Michael O’Rourke said. “Her size is something that most teams don’t have to match up and she’s done a really good job of looking for her (shots) and more importantly looking for others whether it’s on a driving kick or a drive-in dump. She has a little bit of gravity to her which pulls people toward her which gives the other girls a little bit more open shots.”
Another X-factor in the D10 final is that it’s played on a neutral court, the one the University of Guelph’s varsity teams use and it’s nothing like any of the local high school gyms.
“At first it was weird to get used to,” Mencfeld said. “It’s a bigger court so it’s more hustling, but in the end it’s just another basketball game and we played our best. We played on this court just the same as if it was at St. James.”
“It’s a different gym than we play in all year so it’s the team that rebounds and gets the points in the paint,” O’Rourke said. “That’s where the wins come from in these championship games. It’s not the pretty plays, it’s the hard, gritty plays that get it.”
And trying to forget that she was in the U of G gym was something Mencfeld did late in the final minute of the match when she sank a pair of free throws to push the gap to the final seven-point difference.
“I was just thinking about those two shots and not letting the pressure get to me,” she said. “I was thinking that I was in the St. James gym just practising. I didn’t let the stands or anything get in my head and I just shot.”
St. James grabbed the lead in the opening quarter and never let it slip away. However, Centennial just wouldn’t give up and that kept the pressure and the intensity up throughout the match.
The Spartans had finished the regular season in first place with an 11-1 record while St. James was tied for second with the Orangeville Bears, both with 9-3 records.
Mencfeld was her team’s MVP of the final and she led all scorers with 19 points while Olivia Brown collected 10.
Sarah Cobey was Centennial’s MVP and she topped the Spartans’ scoring list with 14 points while Jocelyn Newby had 13.
Both teams advance to CWOSSA regional championship tournament. St. James will be in the AA tournament at Simcoe Thursday and Friday while Centennial will be in the AAA tournament at Brantford Friday and Saturday.
The excitement of the finish to the senior game helped make up for the lack of such in the junior final.
The Guelph CVI Green Gaels were as dominant in the championship match as they had been when they cruised undefeated through their 12-game regular season, averaging a win by 36 points each time out.
In Saturday’s final, the Gaels downed the Ross Royals 59-30 to claim D10’s spot in the CWOSSA AAA tournament at Brantford. GCVI let up in the fourth quarter and that allowed Ross to cut eight points off the margin.
Maddy Boyd was GCVI’s MVP for the game and she collected 14 points while teammate Jordyn Best had 15.
Bronwyn Sweeney was the game MVP for Ross as she netted 10 points.