Practice makes perfect, especially when talking about the East York Athenas’ junior basketball team.
The group of nine girls (six grade 9s and three grade 10s) finished their regular season with a 6–0 record and stormed their way through four play-off matches, including the City Finals, to be the best in Toronto.
Nov. 19 will be a day that will live on in the annals of East York CI for years to come.
Beating Sir Wilfrid Laurier Blue Devils in the city finals 44-21 was the crowning achievement, head coach Stacy Ganogiannis said.
“We were a team that just practised every day, and we practised hard,” she said. “I think repetition really helped. We just kept on doing the same thing.
“I always told the girls, ‘You practise properly, you play properly’,” she added. “Everyone played as a team, and that’s so refreshing to see.”
Prior to the finals, the Athenas downed Westview Centennial 59-33, and in the South Region finals bounced Humberside Huskies 69-32.
The girls did it all on the triangle strategy that Ganogiannis enforced during practices.
“They knew a lot of defensive maneuvers,” she said. “I love my triangles and lanes and I really pushed that.
“They really focused in on filling a lane, make sure there’s a triangle: Two options for passing, and I like give-and-goes,” she added. “Everyone had a position and everyone had to play it.”
All that dedication from the girls and coaching staff made them hungry for a title, often resulting in missed meals.
“We usually had games in the afternoon so it’s funny that I never ate lunch and now we had lunch and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, so this is what lunch feels like’,” Ganogiannis said, with a laugh. “Actually it was pretty good because a lot of people said, ‘Wow, a shutout season’, and I was like, ‘Yeah, but it came with a lot of work’.”
For top-scoring Athenas guard Anastasia Grekos, it was the team’s hard work coming to fruition.
“I kind of felt relieved at the end,” she said. “It was basically a lot of hard work that we accomplished.
“We won the city finals and … it didn’t kick in until the next day, but I was really happy.”
East York worked well as a unit though, Ganogiannis said, adding there wasn’t one stand-alone player.
“You see what I did was I looked at everyone’s strengths and I tried to make plays for every one of the players so they can shine in their own right,” she said.
As for next year, Grekos will be returning to the Athenas junior team, but Ganogiannis’ decision to return to the juniors depends on whether she opts for the seniors.
“We’ve accomplished what we wanted,” she said of the juniors. “Do we do it again? Or my philosophy is let’s work at the senior level.
“We may not be as victorious, however if we work on it for two years … they will be primed for the Citys again for senior, maybe OFSAA.”
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