U16 Spirits capture provincial ‘AAA’ crown

Original story from The Belleville Intelligencer

The Belleville U16 Spirits girls basketball team has done something no other team has ever done in more than 30 years of rep basketball in Belleville. They were crowned Division 1 AAA provincial champions this past weekend at the Pan Am Centre in Scarborough.
Capping off a perfect 5-0 weekend, the Spirits defeated Brantford 54-44 in the gold medal game.

A balanced scoring attack and solid team defence was the difference. With multiple scoring threats, Brantford was unable to contain the Spirits led by Melina McLellan with 12 points, Brigid Bechervaise, 11, Grace Callahan, 10, Sydney Drain, nine, and Talia Vreugendhill, eight, including going six for six from the free throw line, four of them coming late in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

A balanced scoring attack and solid team defence was the difference. With multiple scoring threats, Brantford was unable to contain the Spirits led by Melina McLellan with 12 points, Brigid Bechervaise, 11, Grace Callahan, 10, Sydney Drain, nine, and Talia Vreugendhill, eight, including going six for six from the free throw line, four of them coming late in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

“They came totally prepared to finish of the season with one goal in mind. Anything less than a gold medal would have been disappointing,” Callahan said.
After a heart breaking two point loss to London Gold Medal in the OBLX final three weeks earlier, Belleville had revenge on their minds in the semifinal Sunday morning. Matching up against the No. 1 seed with a trip to the finals at stake, Belleville played their most complete game of the year and dominated London from the opening tip.

Belleville never trailed in this game and maintained their 13 point half time lead throughout and finished with a 52-39 win.

Melina McLellan again was the leading scorer with 17 points, eight of them coming in a three-minute span in the third quarter. Coaches said McLellan was unstoppable this game, getting to the basket at will, all the while drawing a tough defensive assignment covering London’s best player. Bechervaise chipped in with 10 while Callahan and Vreugendhill and nine and seven, respectively.

“This was a game the girls really wanted. Their only two losses of the season had come against London and they were determined not to let it happen again,” Callahan said.
Heading in the weekend, Belleville was the No. 2 ranked team in Ontario with and impressive 38-2 record. Aside from running the table in the OBLX league with a 13-0 record, Belleville took home gold medals from tournaments in Ottawa, Markham and Hamilton.

Grouped with Brantford, Oakville and Inner City, Belleville would have to battle through pool play to get to the medal round.

The opening game with Oakville was a battle the entire game, as the Spirits managed to escape with a 45-41 victory.

Sydney Drain and Vreugendhill paced the Spirits with 11 points apiece while McLellan and Bechervaise each had eight.
Next up for Belleville was Inner City Saints from Toronto and the Spirits were too much for the GTA club and coasted to a 54-35 win, getting scoring contributions from eight different players.
The final round-robin game would determine first place in the pool. Matching up with Brantford who were also 2-0, Belleville had another hard fought game but prevailed 56-48. Drain led the way with 14, McLellan 12, Vanessa Wilton and Bechervaise each with eight.
Coaches Jeff Bechervaise, Darryl Drain and Callahan are very proud of the girls accomplishments.

“For a team from a small centre like Belleville to compete against the best teams across the province and win is a major achievement,” Callahan said.

“Going into the season, the coaches knew we had a solid team and hoped to be competitive in the upper divisions but as the season progressed, the girls were dominant at times, beating teams handily. As the new year rolled around, team goals shifted from being competitive to competing for a title,” he said.

Team members are Sydney Drain, Talia Vreugendhill, Gracie Burris, Grace Callahan, Vanessa Wilton, Brigid Bechervaise, Kira Fair, Melina McLellan, Aleisha Rose, Cassi Yeatman, and Hannah Goad.

 

Team members include: Sydney Drain, Talia Vreugendhill, Gracie Burris, Grace Callahan, Vanessa Wilton, Brigid Bechervaise, Kira Fair, Melina McLellan, Aleisha Rose, Cassi Yeatman, Hannah Goad, and coaches Jeff Bechervaise, Darryl Drain and Tom Callahan.

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