SUMMERSIDE — Nikki Arsenault’s shoulders hunched as she leaned over, hands on her knees, and sweat dripping to the court.
For the first time since the opening tip, she could stand still and take a deep breath.
It was not the way she wanted the season to end for her Athena Hawks, who fell 62-27 to the Stonepark Tigers in the gold-medal game of the P.E.I. School Athletic Association provincial midget AA girls’ basketball championship, despite her best efforts.
It was, however, exactly the game the Tigers were looking for.
“We played great defence and focused on their two main players, Nikki and Katrina (Martin),” said Stonepark head coach Jason MacDonald. “We did a good job limiting their effectiveness, and we played really well.”
The Hawks found themselves behind on the scoreboard the whole way, trailing 38-14 going into the second half.
The scoreboard did nothing to deflate the Hawks, however, as they controlled the pace for the majority of the third quarter. Time of possession and rebounding stats were well in their favour, however, their inability to make good on chances resulted in a 46-18 Tigers’ lead.
With less than three minutes to go in the third quarter, play picked up as Arsenault controlled the ball deep in Stonepark’s end. After getting a shot away at the shot clock buzzer, she collected her own rebound and threw up another shot. After that miss, Martin picked up another offensive rebound and drove the hoop, drawing a foul. She would connect on both shots before Taylor MacDonald answered back with a pair of her own. Arsenault, zoned in now, stripped the ball on the ensuing play and cruised in to lay up two of her 13 points, and close out the third quarter.
Stonepark’s defence kept the Hawks outside the key in the fourth quarter, forcing them to continuously wear down the shot clock before taking outside shots.
Stonepark added another 14 points in the final frame to go on to victory. It’s one they’ve been working all season for, said Taylor, the team’s co-captain.
“We’ve put in so much effort this season, practising six nights a week all year. It feels good to have it pay off.”
The head coach echoed his captain, thanking the girls for their devotion to the team all season.
“A tremendous amount of hard work goes into it, from all our coaches and our players especially,” coach MacDonald said. “Their dedication is what makes our season go.”
Moving forward, it’s an experience they’ll remember. It’s really rewarding for it to end like this for the kids. They get the win, and we all get to take home a banner as well.”
In the bronze-medal game, the Summerside Intermediate School Owls edged out the East Wiltshire Warriors 35-34.
With 20 seconds left on the clock, Summerside’s Callie MacDonald hit the first of two free throws to give her team a one-point lead.
It would be all they would need.
Abby MacDonald led
the way for the Warriors with 12 points while Grace Keizer posted 11 points
and tournament all-star Hailey Cole chipped in with nine.
For the Owls, MacDonald had 10 points — seven in the final quarter — for the Owls, and Georgia Baker had 17 points to lead the way.