Mountaineers host provincial championships starting Thursday
Winning a provincial championship on their home court.
That’s been the goal of the Mohawk College Mountaineers women’s basketball team ever since they started practicing back in September.
At 6 p.m. on Thursday the seventh-ranked Mountaineers tip off against the sixth-ranked Durham Lords in their first game of the eight-team provincial championships at the David Braley Athletic and Recreation Centre at the Fennell campus.
The Mohawk squad, who finished third in the West Division with a 13-5 record, appears to be peaking at the right time, having won eight of their last nine games.
Mountaineers head coach Kevin Duffy said they’ve been playing a high tempo game backed by lots of bench strength.
“We play a lot of bodies and try to wear other teams down,” Duffy said. “The girls have done a great job playing hard for one another and supporting one another.”
Westdale grad and first year player Stef Hrymak led the squad during the regular season averaging 12.8 points over 18 games.
For Mohawk to win gold this weekend they will need some help from the St. Jean de Brebeuf Connection.
Twenty-two-year-old point guard and fourth year player Rachelle Abella and her 19-year-old sister Jen Jen, a first year student and point guard, are both Brebeuf grads who have been lighting things up for the Mountaineers.
Rachelle has been playing at full speed since the end of November following surgery on her right knee last summer.
Mohawk’s 2011-2012 outstanding female athlete and OCAA West Division all-star has averaged eight points a game over 11 games during the regular season.
Jen Jen joined the team in January and averaged 9.4 points per game over nine games.
“I don’t think there’s much pressure because we’re kind of the underdogs going into the tournament,” said Rachelle, who feels three-time defending OCAA champion and top-ranked Algonquin College Thunder is the team to beat. “Having it at home makes me feel more comfortable playing.”
Rachelle noted Duffy prepares the team well for each game and that will continue this week.
“We have to keep everyone pumped and focused on the tournament,” she said.
Jen Jen noted this is the first time at the provincial championships for her and her sister and she’s confident they will capture a gold medal on the weekend.
“I feel we are going to win it,” she said. “I’m confident in every one of my teammates.”
Duffy said the addition of Jen Jen and centre Jakayla Douse, a Cathedral grad who transferred to Mohawk’s police foundations program from Laurier University in January, has given the Mountaineers a great deal of depth.
“We can keep rolling the bench and we don’t lose anything,” said Duffy, who noted the Mountaineers head into Thursday’s game with no injured players. “This is the healthiest we’ve been since I’ve been the coach here the last four years.”
The championship game tips off at 7 p.m. on Saturday and all the games can be watched live via the OCAA women’s basketball championship website that can be accessed by going to mohawkcollege.ca and clicking on the athletics tab.