Sports

Tipoff 2011-12: nothing but net

Dover Bay Dolphins guard Jon Bethell, right, controls the basketball during a tournament game against Brentwood earlier this month at Cowichan Secondary School. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Dover Bay Dolphins guard Jon Bethell, right, controls the basketball during a tournament game against Brentwood earlier this month at Cowichan Secondary School.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

High school basketball season might come down, as it often does, to a last-second shot. For now, the season has only just tipped off, so there’s still lots of time to work toward that final buzzer.

High school teams have all stepped on the court in recent weeks, and Nanaimo will boast a full slate of squads.Every public high school in the city has both a senior boys’ and senior girls’ team this year. The only subtraction is at Nanaimo Christian School, which won’t be able to put a senior boys’ team on the floor again. (Athletic director Nathan Johnson said participation in the younger age groups bodes well for the team’s revival in the future.)

But Dover Bay Secondary School, Wellington, Woodlands, Nanaimo District, John Barsby and Cedar will all have busy gyms this winter.

Here’s a look at Nanaimo’s senior high school basketball teams:

DOVER BAY DOLPHINS SENIOR AAA BOYS

Perenially Nanaimo’s strongest basketball team, Dover’s boys are in for a bit of a different season in 2011-12 with wholesale changes to both the coaching staff and the roster.

The marked change comes on the bench, where Mark Simpson has stepped away after creating a powerhouse program on the Island that won a provincial AAA championship in 2007 and made return trips to the big tournament the last three straight years.

Taking over from Simpson is Reid Fralick, a fresh graduate of Concordia’s CIS basketball team and newcomer to Vancouver Island.

“I’’m excited for the challenge,” he said. “I didn’t know anything, really, about Island basketball so it was interesting and it’s fun and I’ve enjoyed the experience so far.”

He likes the idea of having a young team to coach. Returning Grade 12 point guard Jon Bethell is the leader and primary scorer on the team, while fellow guard Brandon Kumar is another veteran leader.

Other players who will be looked to for contributions include Jaeden Gilles, Wes Richardson, Robbie Calvin and Spencer Hiemstra.

“Because we have an inexperienced team, we need to work together in the improvement process,” said Fralick. “It all starts on the defensive end. It’s a lot of talk on defence and it’s a lot of buying into the systems and it’s our leaders stepping up and taking control of the game.”

Dover will be an undersized team in AAA, so the team will have to play a style suited to its strengths. On defence that means a a focus on help-side D, boxing out and gang rebounding, said the coach, and on offence, the Dolphins will have to make quick decisions.

“We need to look for a lot of penetration and a lot of quick, initial offence and look for the fast break,” Fralick said.

The senior AAA boys’ basketball regular season doesn’t tip off until the new year.

DOVER BAY DOLPHINS SENIOR AAA GIRLS

Dover Bay Secondary School’s senior girls’ basketball team is also entering a year of transition.

Dale Nicks takes over as the new coach of the Dolphins girls, leading a young but talented core of players who have moved up from junior.

“[We’re] trying to find chemistry and getting them to be good teammates early in the season and jell,” said Nicks.

The Dolphins have had encouraging early season results – they placed second at a challenging Victoria tournament earlier this month – and so there are signs that the group is building.

The coach said the Dover girls are a rather “vertically challenged” team in AAA, so they’ve adjusted the game plan accordingly.

“We press teams and we fast break and push the ball,” said Nicks. “Our practices are all run around that – high tempo, lots of running.”

So far this season, Grade 10 forward Emily Shires and Grade 11 forward McKenzie Nicks have emerged as the top scorers, and Grade 12 vet Jamie Bassett, coming off injury, will also be a go-to player in the paint.

Guards Gabby Jeffrey and Jenna Ziemanski are other contributors.

Nicks said Dover’s juniors have reached provincials three straight years, so now that those girls have reached the senior level, they’ll have the same high expectations of themselves.

“The group that we have right now is probably going to be pretty motivated to turn it on after Christmas,” he said.

The Island’s senior AAA regular season doesn’t start until the new year.

WELLINGTON WILDCATS SENIOR AA BOYS

The Wellington Wildcats are going to be tough for teams to handle in AA.

The ’Cats will tower over most teams, so they have an advantage in some key areas of the game.

“We’ve got a fair amount of height so we’ve got to learn how to use that,” said Glenn Johnson, coach of the Wellington boys. “We’re young so we’re going to make a lot of mistakes.”

Wellington will try to give itself easy looks inside whenever it can, both by controlling the boards and also by running plays designed to get the ball to the post.

Aaron Copley is the team’s top scorer, with Brad Jenks another key forward.

Kam O’Keefe and veteran Jin Han lead the group of guards.

“We’ll get better as the season goes on, “ said Johnson. “We’re pretty raw right now but with time and more games we’ll get better.”

Wellington’s boys host the Barsby Blazers on Jan. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wellington Secondary School gym. The ’Cats then go on to host their annual Superball tournament Jan. 5-7.

WELLINGTON WILDCATS SENIOR AA GIRLS

The Wellington Wildcats go into the season as a favourite. The ’Cats have all the necessary dimensions, including depth and height.

Coach Nicole McRae said a large roster allows her to play a style that will make things tough on opposing teams, as she can sub players on and off.

“If they give three hard minutes, then I can put fresh legs in and then get another three hard minutes from the next group,” she said.

With four players hovering around six-foot, the Wildcats also have a greater post presence than past years.

One of the team’s leaders will be returnee Mariah Van Sickle, who was a top scorer last year while still in Grade 10. A key addition is guard Sara Simovic, who transfers to Wellington after two years as Dover’s point guard.Grade 10 call-up Ally Keir is a strong two-way player and Taeler Keir, Vicky Brown and Julie Zhao are some other girls who will play a significant role.

Wellington’s girls will host their Superball tournament Jan. 5-7, then play their home opener Jan. 10 against Isfeld.

CEDAR SPARTANS SENIOR AA BOYS

The Cedar Spartans senior boys are a collection of good athletes who compete hard. Those attributes will help them as they try to build chemistry and develop a game plan to suit their roster. Coach Rick Hart said there is work to be done at both ends of the court, but he thinks it will come.

“We have to somehow get it inside into our post players and then read the D and go from there,” said Hart. “[On defence] we’ve really got to set up our team defence a little bit, blocking out and rebounding.”

The Spartans’ primary scorer again this season will be post player Brendan McCarthy, and returning point guard Jake Crow is strong in all areas.

Newcomers include athletic shooting guard Eric Sackey and intense swingman Ben Cawthorne.

Cedar’s next game is Jan. 3 at Ladysmith.

CEDAR SPARTANS SENIOR A GIRLS

The Cedar Spartans girls should be a force in single A. The team moves back down after a year at the AA level, and does so with some key returnees.

“We’re going to look forward to having an exciting season with the girls,” said Launa Gannon, Cedar’s co-coach.

The group of veterans is led by top scorer Megan Cawthorne, with Jordan Stotts and Cathy Jordan two other players who are strong at both ends of the court. Returnee Jessie Sharratt is the team’s point guard and Grade 10 post player Hailey Bradley is one of the young players ready to contribute.

“We’ve got to look in to the tall girls, into the post, they’re going to have a big impact this year,” said Gannon. “And the guards have good shots, so we have lots of options.”

Cedar plays an exhibition at Woodlands today (Dec. 17) at 2 p.m.

WOODLANDS EAGLES SENIOR AA BOYS

A youth movement on the Woodlands Eagles senior boys’ basketball team means a different approach this year. Whereas last year’s group was a veteran, hot-shooting squad, this year’s team has to work more on fundamentals, said coach Joey Spillman.

The Eagles lost their first two league games, Spillman said he’s tried to stress to his players that good things will come through hard work.

“I can’t guarantee that you guys make Islands,” he told them. “But if you guys work your butt off, you’re going to have a shot at it.”

Woodlands doesn’t have a lot of height, so they’ll try to play an energy game.

“If you can push the ball and you can battle hard on the rebounds and make the other team work for 40 minutes, don’t make it easy on them, that’s kind of the strategy this year,” said the coach.

Erik Van Waes, veteran point guard, is a dependable all-around player and Bryson Cox will be a high-scoring forward. Secondary scoring will come from Connor Robertson and Aaron Halsall.

Woodlands’ next regular-season game is Jan. 3 at Kwalikum.

WOODLANDS EAGLES SENIOR AA GIRLS

The Woodlands Eagles senior girls know how close they were last year, and that knowledge drives them at the beginning of another high school basketball season.

The Eagles narrowly lost a play-in game last March that would have put them in the provincial championship tournament.

“[We’re] deciding where we want to go and working hard to get there,” said Carl Macdonald, the team’s coach.

The team has a ton of veterans to lead the way.

“Our team is coming together very well,” said the coach. “We have a combination of strong outside shooting and some really strong post players.”

Top scorer Ksenia Malenica returns, complemented by a lot of other capable point-getters. Raechell Sywak, Margaret Edwardson and T.J. Andjelkovic give the Eagles lots of options in the post and Michelle Berti can drive the lane and score. Also playing a role will be Adriana Medeiros.

The Eagles play an exhibition game today (Dec. 17) against the Cedar Spartans at 2 p.m. at the Woodlands Secondary School gym. The team resumes its regular season Jan. 5 with a home game at Highlands.

NANAIMO DISTRICT ISLANDERS SENIOR AAA BOYS

The AAA schedule is always tough, so the Nanaimo District Secondary School senior boys won’t have any easy games this season.

But with a seven-team league this year instead of four teams, there should be some competitive basketball games.

Coach Brett Leggett said this year’s Islanders are a small, quick group are used to playing at a height disadvantage.

“We’ll be looking to come out pretty fast with a lot of intensity…” he said. “The biggest thing is just attacking the hoop, trying to get the ball inside to the paint, bring it to [opponents]. It’s always a good way to tget the defence to suck in, aand then [we can] make moves off of that.”

Shooting guard Tyler Norris will be one of the key players for ND this season, with forward Aidan Goodall also expected to provide scoring. Point guard Brady Rogers has a well-rounded game and fellow veteran Kevin Jeong plays an intense brand of basketball.

Nanaimo District begins its regular season Jan. 10.

NANAIMO DISTRICT ISLANDERS SENIOR AA GIRLS

Nanaimo District Secondary School’s senior AA girls should be able to get up and down the court without too much huffing and puffing. The NDSS Islanders consider themselves a fit, fast team.

Already this fall, the ND girls were able to win a game in which they played most of the way with five players. The team expects to have better depth from now on, with 11 girls on the roster.

“We haven’t had a chance to have the full team together, there’s been too many interruptions, it’s been very difficult,” said Jim Richardson, coach of the Islanders girls. “So we’re kind of learning on the fly right now.”

Forward Leigh Richardson returns as the team’s primary scorer, complemented by Megan Skeeles in the post. Versatile Carly O’Sullivan is the other key returnee and new guards Pauline Dawson and Jordyn Taylor are making their presence felt.

“[We’re] going to have to be a hustling team, work hard on defence and offence all the time,” said the coach.

Next action for ND is Jan. 3 on the road; the team’s home opener is Jan. 12.

BARSBY BLAZERS SENIOR AA BOYS

The Barsby Blazers are trying to keep things light and fun, and work their way into basketball season. Many of the players are coming off a physically and emotionally demanding football season.

“It’s a lot different from football. The guys have to tone back some of that aggression,” said Kirstin Polz, coach of the Blazers. “At the beginning of the season it’s really, really hard. Just having to think about dribbling the ball as opposed to just running with it is a challenge.”

Polz said the players are willing to practise and work hard.

“We have some real athletes on the team and that’s going to bring us through,” said the coach.

Grade 11 guard Austin Lyle is the team’s leader and primary scorer, with Jordan Kuziek adding scoring and rebounding. Robert Morris, Jason Jia and Nate Berg are other key players.

Barsby’s next regular-season game is Jan. 3 at Wellington Secondary School.

BARSBY BLAZERS SENIOR AA GIRLS

When basketball season resumes in the new year, the Barsby girls want to head straight for the paint.

“Games are won inside, and that’s what we have to do,” said Paul Seward, the team’s coach. “We have some outside three-point shooters but I always say that’s not any way to win. When you go inside you’re working for it and you earn everything that you get.”

The Blazers have several girls who also play all-Native basketball, so they get extra practice time, helping them to be a running team, said the coach.

Jessie White, Brianna Seward and Jenna Keen play in the post and the group of guards includes Jaleena Greene, Ashley Milburn and Taylor Sampson.

“They’re a great squad. They’ve got a lot of heart and they’re making the decision on their own to want to better themselves,” said the coach.

Barsby’s next home game is Jan. 3 when it hosts the Isfeld Ice at 5 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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