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East Elgin falls to eventual champions Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs
finishing the provincial high school tournament top eight
November 26, 2022
By Rob J. Ross
STRATFORD, Ont. - Only one team beat the East Elgin Eagles at OFSAA AA girls basketball.
It was Sir Winston Churchill (SWC) Bulldogs, the eventual champions from St. Catharines, who handed out the Eagles a 76-27 loss, in the quarterfinals, Friday, at St. Mike's secondary school.
The Bulldogs would go on to win gold, completing a 5-0 run at the provincial high school championship.
"It's their press. No one can beat their press," Eagles' Jaimie Staulbaum said. "We had a hard time getting the ball pass that. Usually we can break the press by passing to the middle. But their arms were so long, so it was hard to those passes off. They were quick. They are a really good team."
The Bulldogs dropped 12 three-pointers on the Eagles, led by Brookelyn Keltas and Yemi Oladipo, who scored a game high 20 and 18 points, respectively.
"They're number one for a reason," Eagles' head coach Sean Beilhartz said. "They have amazing athletes and they are very well coached. It's sub one player in and the next player is as good and match up wise, it's really tough."
Staulbaum had eight points for the Eagles, while Brooke Preszcator and seven.
"What I loved is that we never quit and we had smiles on our faces," said Beilhartz. "We matched up well against them. You wouldn't know that by the score, but I know they went to thier bag of tricks a few times to get things moving."
Losing in the quarters gives the Eagles, seeded 14th going into the 18-team event, a top eight result and going out against the champs, may unofficially have the Eagles placing fifth overall.
"We're happy about everything," Beilhartz said. "We weren't expected to win any games, so what impressed me was how loose the girls played and how they were committed to winning. They also knew there wasn't any pressure to beat these teams, but you would have never known we were the underdogs."
East Elgin upended the eight and nine seeds, advancing to the quarters, one win away from a medal.
"We played amazing. It's definitely the best we've played all season. It's a great experience overall," Staulbaum said. "Since my Grade 10 year we didn't have basketball and last year we didn't have WOSSAA, so this is a great way to end it all. After the game I was crying, because I was so happy and it was a great way to end my high school basketball career."
Staulbaum now shares similar memories with her sister, Eagles assistant coach Katie Knight, who also played for the Eagles, advancing to OFSAA, in 2006 and 2008.
"Katie is always saying how much she enjoyed it and how it's one of her best memories from when she was in high school," Staulbaum said. "So now that I got to experience that too, it's amazing. I know what she means."
Earlier in the day, Staulbaum took over in the fourth quarter, leading the Eagles to a 47-37 win over Our Lady of Lourdes, from Waterloo.
"It got a bit scary when they caught up to us," said Staulbaum. "But I knew if we stayed calm and kept working together, we'd be ok."
The Eagles led 20-12 at half, but Lourdes tied the game at 28, early in the fourth quarter.
That's when Staulbaum raised her game, scoring 12 of the Eagles' final 19 points, including hitting a three-pointer and several shots from the free throw line.
"When the lights were brightest she played her best. That's what your superstars do and I think she fits that mold," praised Beilhartz. "Whoever has the opportunutity to land her next year, whatever her choice is going to be, is going to one heck of a person first and one heck of a basketball player. She's just scratching the surface to what she'll become."
East Elgin looks to stay competitive next season, aiming to four-peat as TVRA South-East champs and perhaps have a follow-up trip to OFSAA. Co-captain Ellery Beilhartz, twins Ainsley and Brooke Preszcator and dynamo Lily Allen, will be returning.
Sir Winston Churchill dominated the 18-team OFSAA tournament, defeating two-seeded Centennial secondary school, from Belleville, 46-34, in the final. Arnprior defeated Hammerskjold, from Thunder Bay, in the bronze medal game. Eleventh seeded Patrick Fogarty school, out of Orillia, won the consolation final.
A number of players from SWC, including Keltas and Oladipo, play elite basketball in the provincial Juel prep league.
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