WANTED: Competition for local team

Allen Iverson scoffs at the concept of practice and claims he doesn’t need it.

Pope John Paul II senior girls basketball team is playing like it doesn’t need it either.

“I don’t believe any team in the region can beat us,” rookie point guard Shanice Mckoy says. “We’re gonna come up number one in the league.”

PJPII's senior girls basketball team. Back (L-R) Coach Steve Gazmin, Samantha Smith, Natasha Agyeman, Candice Reventar, Claudene Onguti, Neke Ibeh. Front (L-R) Latisha Bell, Shanice McKoy, Courtney Sinclair, Stephanie Boachie, Jenique Thombs. Absent: Kim Brown (player), and Connie Shimko (Manager).
PJPII’s senior girls basketball team. Back (L-R) Coach Steve Gazmin, Samantha Smith, Natasha Agyeman, Candice Reventar, Claudene Onguti, Neke Ibeh. Front (L-R) Latisha Bell, Shanice McKoy, Courtney Sinclair, Stephanie Boachie, Jenique Thombs. Absent: Kim Brown (player), and Connie Shimko (Manager).

One must be their lucky number because that’s just how many practices the team has had since the season began last month.

Coach Steve Gazmin just returned from his honeymoon so they may be able to schedule in a second practice now, but it hardly seems necessary.

The Panthers are so far undefeated in the TDCAA and have racked up seven victories, including 57-11 over Etienne Brule, a 66-9 breeze by Cardinal Newman, and an easy 49-11 over neighbourhood rivals Mother Teresa.

“We weren’t trying to run the score,” Gazmin insists. “We don’t try to embarrass people.”

In search of challenges beyond the TDCAA, the Panthers have been participating in as many tournaments as they could.

“We have to play in the tournaments because there’s a lot more competition in the GTA,” Gazmin said last Friday at a St. Francis Xavier Secondary School tournament in Mississauga.

Watching their 40=16 win against St. Marcellus Catholic School at the tournament, it was difficult to identify one particular team star.

“It’s a pretty balanced team,” Gazmin said. “Different stars emerge every game.

“I think we have a very good chance this year because we’re very deep on the bench.”

Rookie point guard Shanice McKoy does not think any local team could beat her PJPII Panthers.
Rookie point guard Shanice McKoy does not think any local team could beat her PJPII Panthers.

The roster includes team captain Courtney Sinclair, who Gazmin says he can play in any position. Centre Natasha Agyeman is the Panthers’ “big girl down low,” Gazmin says. “She’s tough.”

Candice Reventar is the team’s tiny point guard.

“We’re not that big,” Gazmin says. “We’re short so we have to rely on our speed.”

The speed, coupled with the outside club team experience of a lot of the players, contributes to the team’s success.

“They have good knowledge of the game,” Gazmin said.

And for those who don’t have that game knowledge?

“I just do what coach tells us to do,” forward Samantha Smith says. “He’s always right.”