Carbonear Collegiate Lady Sentinels basketball player Morgan Clarke lines up a shot during practice at the school on Jan. 14.
Depending on who you ask, the girls’ basketball team at Carbonear Collegiate might be the strongest program under the Sentinels umbrella.
Under the guidance of coach Ed Jarvis, the club made claim to that title after an unexpected second place finish in the girls bracket of 27th McDonald’s Classic Basketball Tournament held at St. Paul’s Elementary in Gander Jan. 10-12.
Ranked last heading into the tournament, Carbonear was the youngest team registered to compete. The team does not have any Level III players with its oldest being in Level II.
Using the underdog status that comes with being ranked last, the Lady Sentinels persevered, meeting a tough Stephenville High Spartan team in the tournament final.
“That was the best part of the tournament, us going out and proving that we were actually a good team,” said team captain Morgan Clarke of Victoria.
Clarke and her teammates gave Stephenville everything they could handle for 40 minutes and beyond.
For all of regulation, both teams played intense basketball. Every shot had a purpose and every foul was solid.
“I told them they could compete, that’s the very first thing I said. You can compete with these girls and you are as good as these girls,” said Jarvis.
Fuelled by their coach’s words, the Lady Sentinels gave Stephenville everything they could handle and when the two teams were notched at 51 at the end of regulation. Overtime would be needed to determine the champion.
“It was probably the most intense game I’ve ever played in my life,” said Clarke.
When the overtime dust had settled, the Spartans had narrowly defeated the Sentinels 60-57.
Mallory Gillespie poured in 28 points, while Chelsey Parsons and Emily Kennedy chipped in with 10 each to pace the Sentinels.
“We’re disappointed with the loss, but it was the process that was more important for me,” said Jarvis.
“We caught a lot of people by surprise,” added Clarke. “We turned a lot of heads.”
The Sentinels got started on the wrong foot in the tournament with an opening loss to the same Stephenville team: 47-38. In that game, Clarke, Mallory Gillespie and Jasmine Slade led the way with six points apiece.
“We kind of got our hopes down and it discouraged us,” said Clarke.
However, that all changed when the calendar turned to Saturday (Jan. 11).
“That’s when we did our best,” said Clarke.
In the first game Saturday, Carbonear outclassed the representatives from Twillingate 60 - 31. Top scorers were Kennedy with 24, Slade with 15 and Parsons chipped in eight.
The next game was much of the same as the Lady Sentinels put a beating on Exploits Valley High of Grand Falls-Windsor 61-32. Kennedy was again the top scorer for Carbonear with 22 points, while Clarke and Parsons each had eight.
In the crossover, Elwood High of Deer Lake was next on the chopping block. Carbonear pasted the Lakers 71-42 to book its ticket to the championship.
Kennedy (28), Gillespie (16) and Michaela Case (12) were the top scorers.
“The more we went, the better we got,” said Jarvis on his team’s improvement through the tournament.
For Jarvis, the high placing in the tournament was icing on the cake. His real goal was introducing his young charges to “big, senior ball.”
“That was the process. That was the most important thing we wanted,” said the coach. “Win, lose or draw, going out there was very important to show them what senior ball is like.”
While it may not be much of a difference between Level II and Level III players, there is a gap between Level I and the senior ages.
For the Lady Sentienls, who will participate in AAAA division II provincials, the tournament provided invaluable experience for a team fixing to feature prominently over the next two seasons.
“They’ll learn just as much from that loss as they will from a win,” Jarvis noted.
“It’s a good morale boost for us, and to look at what we can accomplish as a group,” added Clarke.
Members of the team are: Kerrilynn Maloney, Meghan Lehr, Chelsea Walsh, Michaela Case, Arianna Lee, Stephanie Slade, Emily Kennedy, Chelsey Parsons, Brianna Roberts, Jasmine Slade, Mallory Gillespie, Najaula Sparkes, Morgan Clarke and Devon Nicholson.