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Regi, Mackenzie Curran both win big

November 7, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

It was a memorable afternoon at Regiopolis Notre Dame Thursday, and it would have been momentous even if the Panthers hadn’t won their senior girls basketball semifinal game.

“This is a great day,” Panthers coach Lesley Stevenson said, and what made it great was not so much her team’s 56-21 victory over the visiting Frontenac Falcons, but the news principal Wayne Hill delivered between the third and fourth quarters of the game.

Hill announced to those assembled in the packed gymnasium that a bone marrow donor had been found for Panthers player Mackenzie Curran.

“This is a wonderful day,” Stevenson said. “We had no idea that announcement was coming so when it came, my team lost it for a minute, out of joy and happiness for Mackenzie. They all said, ‘Let’s go and do this for Mackenzie.’”

Curran, a Grade 11 student, has myelodyplastic syndrome, a disorder that limits the production of healthy blood cells. To overcome it, she needs a bone marrow transplant.

After her story became known, Get Swabbed clinics were held at several local high schools, Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College, where people could register as potential donors.

Hill announced Thursday that Hill will be going to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto Sunday to begin treatment. As Curran stood next to Hill, the spectators and both teams stood and gave her a standing ovation lasting close to a minute.

Stevenson said her players have worked diligently, selling bracelets and otherwise working to make people aware of the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, an agency that matches people needing a transplant with donors.

“The school has worked really hard and it hits home,” she said. “It reinforces to the kids that, you know what? It works. When you get together and you have a common goal, it works. It was fabulous news.”

And it made the outcome of Thursday’s game seem somehow insignificant.

Regi, undefeated during the regular year, raced to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter and it was never threatened. A 23-point second quarter gave the Panthers a 35-13 lead at halftime.

Despite the obvious talent on the team — “they’re exceptionally talented athletes, and they’re basketball players,” Stevenson said — the Panthers’ success derives from the way they practise.

“They beat each other up some days,” Stevenson said, adding that with this particular group, it hasn’t been difficult sustaining that work ethic, even in a season where only twice has the margin of victory been less than 23 points and the average winning cushion has been 27 points.

“These girls are so real, on the inside and their basketball skills, that when they come to practice and they’re between the lines, it’s all about the game,” Stevenson said. “They fight each other as hard as they fight opponents.

“At times there are practices where we have to refocus and say, ‘Look, we’ve got a big game tomorrow.’ They’re typical teenage girls, but when it comes down to it they’re fabulous and they work as hard or harder in practice than they do on the floor here. They’re outstanding.”

Bridget Mulholland led Regi Thursday with 16 points, 12 of them in the first half. Alex Gilmour, Kallysta Deodato and Nora Lloyd-Ellis scored eight points apiece for home team, as eight different Panthers scored.

Regi will play the the La Salle Black Knights, 36-19 winners Thursday over the Sydenham Golden Eagles in the other senior semifinal, in the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association championship game, Monday, 7 p.m., at Queen’s.

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