For the second year in a row, the St. Raymond eighth-grade girls basketball team won the Northwest Catholic Conference Championship against an evenly matched Our Lady of Wayside team.
The Lady Saints countered Wayside's full-court pressure with their own well-disciplined, half-court trap to pull out a narrow victory in the final seconds of the game, 33-31.
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The Saints began the tournament with a win over St. James, 50-29, qualifying them to move on to meet conference newcomer St. Gilbert in a physical conference semifinal match.
St. Gilbert rallied to tie the game at the end of regulation, sending the two teams into overtime where St. Raymond's defense held its opponent scoreless. The Saints hit clutch free throws in the final minutes to earn the win, 38-35.
"This was a truly remarkable championship run for the Lady Saints," said St. Raymond head coach John Leazer, who along with assistants Todd Nuelle and Karen Haaning led the team.
"This team only had seven girls and we were plagued with injuries most of the year. We played many games with only five or six players. Everyone had to contribute. What was great about the team was that someone always stepped up to pick up the slack. If things weren't going their way, they would get tougher, especially with their tenacious defense. And they were great at rallying each other and never giving up.
"The team was very easy to coach," continued Leazer. "They were focused, hard working and disciplined. Everyone showed excellent team spirit, and they got along extremely well. They always respected other teams, coaches, and referees and showed excellent sportsmanship.
"Aside from being talented basketball players, they were excellent ambassadors for St. Raymond."
The Lady Saints finished the season with a 26-7 record. The combined record for St. Raymond seventh- and eighth-grade girls basketball was 51-13. The eighth-grade Lady Saints competed in the finals this year in the Trinity High School Tournament and the St. Raymond Kate Conlon Tournament, in addition to finishing 2-1 in a travel team tournament.
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