St. Francis wins Crossroads tourney

The St. Francis Sentinels spoiled the host team’s bid to take both titles at the Crossroads Invitational basketball tournament.
After taking the boys’ title back on Jan. 31, the Crossroads Tornadoes had hoped to make it two for two this past Saturday as the girls took on five teams.
But when the final buzzer sounded in the gold-medal game, it was the visitors from Fort Frances who took home the gold, leaving the home team to console itself with silver.
Both St. Francis and Crossroads had gone undefeated through the round-robin portion of the tournament, but the Tornadoes had an easier time in the semi-finals.
With Sturgeon Creek School and the Whitefish Bay Winterhawks eliminated after preliminary action, that left St. Francis to face a gritty team from Atikokan High School while Crossroads squared off against Our Lady of the Way from Stratton.
The Tornadoes, who had beaten OLOW 28-16 in the round-robin, had little trouble advancing to the final, this time romping to a 34-8 victory.
Justine Chiefson led the onslaught with 12 points while captain Rylee Nixon added eight.
Meanwhile, the Sentinels had to fight and scratch for every basket before prevailing 26-23 over the Voyageurs, leaving OLOW and Atikokan to battle for bronze.
The medal round proved to be somewhat less precise than the games that led up to them. But after playing five games in five hours, fatigue became a factor for all four teams.
In the bronze-medal game, Atikokan came from behind to take a 20-12 victory despite having just played a gruelling semi-final match against St. Francis.
Then in the gold-medal game, Crossroads held a slim 6-5 lead at halftime, but it was obvious both teams were not as sharp as they had been earlier.
Chiefson still dominated the floor, but her drives through the middle and power lay-ups too often failed to drop.
In the second half, Alyssa Vanderaa used her size and speed to penetrate the Tornado defence almost at will and proved to be the difference in the end.
The 6’0” centre accounted for six of her team’s points and was a dominating factor under the boards. Nina Bird—another six-footer—also proved too much for the exhausted Tornadoes, chipping in with four points as well as numerous rebounds.
St. Francis pulled ahead to stay with two minutes to go, then hung on for a 17-14 victory.
After the game, Crossroads coach and principal Brian Love said he was more than pleased with his squad’s efforts.
He noted the core of his team is the same one that captured the district volleyball championship back in fall. And since most of them currently are in Grade 7, he’s looking forward to another year of competitive results on both courts.