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Eagles qualify for OFSAA hoops

 Eagles taking flight to OFSAA hoops


   East Elgin wins twice at WOSSAA AA senior girls basketball advancing to final

   and a return to the high school provincial championship after 14 years      


  November 17, 2022


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By Rob J. Ross

STRATFORD, Ont. - Jaimie Stahlbaum has been waiting for this moment since Grade nine.

The East Elgin Eagles' co-captain and all-star scored 16 points, in a 55-29 defeat of the London John Paul II Jaguars, at Western Ontario Secondary School Athletic Association (WOSSAA) AA senior girls' basketball, Wednesday, at St. Mike's secondary school.

East Elgin advances to the final against the St. Mike's Warriors, scheduled for 4 p.m. today, and qualifies for OFSAA, back here, November 24-26.

"Amazing. This is what I've working towards since Grade nine," a teary eyed Stahlbaum said. "It's really exciting. It's my last year, so it's even better. It's always been in my ear, 'We're going to OFSAA. We're going to OFSAA,' and it's finally happening."

It's the first full season since 2019, when Stahlbaum was in Grade nine and the Eagles lost in the WOSSAA final. A year ago, the Eagles won TVRA South-East with a 9-0 record, but WOSSAA was cancelled.

"Last year we didn't even have WOSSAA because of COVID," said Stahlbaum, a member of the senior team, all four of her years at East Elgin. "In Grade 10 we would have had a good chance then, but then again COVID shut it down. When I was in Grade nine, we got silver.

"This year, here we are."

A two-point game after one quarter, Eagles' head coach Sean Beilhartz expressed he wanted the team to be better.

"Our coaches, they're really tough on us sometimes," acknowledges Stahlbaum. "But it's good, because it gets us going and gives us that spark. Once we get that spark, we're gone."

East Elgin led 28-19 at half-time, and took command in the third quarter, with a 17-3 run.

"I rode them a bit and they responded. They know it's never personal. It's always love. It's about getting them where we need to get to," said Beilhartz. "Focus is the thing. If we lose focus, emotions can be an issue for us. If I'm not doing my job and keeping on top of that, then I'm letting them down. That's my job."

The third quarter was one of the Eagles' best eight minutes of the season.

"It was a nice quarter," Beilhartz said. "We started hitting some layups, which was a nice change. We had that height advantage. We can get the ball to them and then it's just a matter of focusing and hitting that little white square (on the backboard)."

There was concern when co-captain Ellery Beilhartz, who had nine points in the first half, went down with an ankle injury at the start of the second half. However, that gave opportunity for such players as Lily Allen and Ainsley Preszcator to shine.

"A little bit worried," admits Staulbaum, after seeing Ellery leave the game. "But I knew the next girl would step up and be there. That's what happened, everyone stepped up. Lily was amazing. She really stepped up, by taking the ball up and being able to pass it."

Preszcator had 12 points, while Allen finished with seven points, several rebounds and a couple steals.

"Big game for Lily Allen," coach Beilhartz said. "That's her coming out party. She's Grade 10. She was making good decisions. She has grown. She's so scrappy. If there's a ball, she wants that ball more than anybody else."

Ellery didn't return to the floor, but her presence was felt from the sidelines.

"The girls live thru Ellery emotionally, but they saw Ellery was over there cheering them on, jumping up and down," coach Beilhartz said. "Jaimie, there's a reason she's an all-star. She's a fantastic human being and amazing basketball player. She was ready for the spotlight."

Now the Eagles turn their focus on 15 teams from across the province.

"OFSAA. It's not easy to do. Lots of good things have to happen. We seem to be peaking at the right time," coach Beilhartz added. "We don't have a lot of club basketball players, but we got a lot of athletes. We have a lot of smart girls and I'll tell you, they're a great group to be around."

In the Eagles' first game, a 48-16 rout of London South, Stahlbaum had 16 points and Megan Small, 10.

East Elgin returns to OFSAA girls' basketball, for the first time since 2008, when current assistant coaches Katie Knight and Maggie Doan were on the court.

Update: St. Mike's won the WOSSAA AA crown, downing East Elgin, 40-29. At OFSAA, St. Mike's will have a higher seed position than East Elgin.




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