After claiming a Division 4 provincial title in 2012 and earning silver in Division 3 one year ago, coach Bruce Bourget and company entered the 2013-2014 season with even more lofty goals.
Earlier this month, the U12 Jam picked up their second consecutive tournament banner, winning gold at the Ancaster Magic competition as the locals overcame an opening game loss to the Toronto Huskies, redeeming themselves against the very same opponent in the final.
Taking full advantage of their tremendous height, the Huskies controlled both the offensive and defensive boards, beating Sudbury 31-27 as the tournament got started. Tied at the half, the Jam received a combined 20-point effort from Mireille DiMaio, Delaney Bourget and Dylann Mazzuchin, with the likes of Cassandra Yurich, Maggie Emery and Arianna Ghorbani providing valuable work defensively.
Facing an Oakville Venom squad flying high after an impressive opening win over the host Ancaster Magic, Sudbury battled tooth and nail in a contest that featured never-ending shifts in momentum.
An early 6-0 lead evaporated to a 12-11 halfway deficit, which gave way to a see-saw second half. The Venom nailed a three-point shot with just 10 seconds to play, giving the Oakville crew a one-point advantage.
But the TSN turning point for the Jam might well have come down the stretch of Game 2 as Bourget drove the lane with only seconds remaining, nailing a 10-footer to give the northern girls a thrilling victory.
The excitement from that win would prove invaluable as the Jam prepared to face the Etobicoke Rams, ranked sixth in the province last year. Sudbury played a solid first half, opening up a four-point lead and extending it through to the end of the contest.
A smooth bank shot from the wing by Grace Tresidder in transition stretched the lead to 11 points, as the Jam turned to the rebounding talents of Shannon Clarke, Guilia Wilson and Victoria Adams and relentless defensive pressure of Katrina Thai and Ghorbani in controlling the remainder of the game.
A balanced attack that included key baskets from the likes of Grace Smrke, Adams, Yurich and Emery helped the Sudbury crew outscore the Rams by 13 in the second half en route to a 38-21 triumph.
The Tecumseh Saints stood as the next challenge, with a win needed to put the JAM into the championship affair. The Jam started quickly, building a 10-3 lead and never letting up, doubling the southwestern Ontario contingent 46-23.
Sami Dunlop-Bassett led all scorers with 11 points, with DiMaio and Ally Elliott adding seven and six respectively, while Bourget drained a pair of three-point shots to pace the JAM offence.
So the locals took to the floor against the powerful Torontonians, anxious to compete to the final buzzer. Fans were treated to a true gold-medal finale, as players from both squads battled their way through screens, jostling for rebounding position and diving to the floor for loose balls right from the opening tipoff.
The game was as close as expected, with Sudbury holding a slim two-point lead at halftime. Compensating for a size disadvantage, the Jam tag-teamed the towering Huskies' post with a combination of Bassett Dunlop, Clarke, Elliott and Wilson.
Breaking the Toronto full-court pressure with some degree of success, the locals held a slim lead until a late run in the third quarter from their talented adversaries.
But with four seconds left in the third quarter, Bourget drove the length of the floor, launching a 30-footer at the buzzer that found the bottom of the net, bringing the crowd to their feet and stretching the lead to four entering the final quarter.
The JAM displayed outstanding offensive discipline, despite their youth, limiting turnovers and attacking the Toronto post players, eventually getting both of the Toronto twin towers to foul out of the game.
As is so often needed, the Sudbury ladies relied on clutch free throws in the final minutes by DiMaio and Bourget, sealing the victory as the JAM claimed championship honours against one of the top teams in Ontario.
The next challenge for this team should prove equally as daunting as the U12 Jam will be one of six teams competing in the Division I grouping of the 36-team Blessed Sacrament Tournament in Hamilton on the weekend of Feb. 21-23.
The Sudbury U12 Jam girls roster is comprised of Cassandra Yurich, Grace Smrke, Delaney Bourget, Ally Elliott, Mireille DiMaio, Victoria Adams, Dylann Mazzuchin, Arianna Ghorbani, Maggie Emery, Grace Tresidder, Katrina Thai, Giulia Wilson, Sami Dunlop-Bassett and Shannon Clarke, as well as coaches Bruce Bourget and Chris Mazzuchin.