If the world does indeed end on Friday (Dec. 21), then the city’s sports fans will miss out on what’s shaping up to be a fantastic high school basketball season.
All six of Nanaimo’s high schools have put together both a senior boys’ and senior girls’ team for 2012-13. What’s more, since 10 of those 12 teams are playing at the AA level – only Dover is AAA – it means more all-Nanaimo matchups than ever before.
The Bulletin caught up with all 12 of the city’s senior basketball teams:
DOVER BAY DOLPHINS BOYS
Dover Bay Secondary School’s senior boys might be a little behind on their basketball right now, but come playoff time they should be right in the mix.
Because the AAA league doesn’t start until mid-January, the team only recently began practising.
“They’re learning quickly,” said Greg Gillies, coach of the Dolphins. “It was a late start so we will be a little bit behind most teams, but all that matters is when it comes down to playoff time.”
Gillies is an alumnus of the most successful Dover team ever, the 2007 provincial champions, and is getting his players’ attention.
“You always wonder if the kids are going to be receptive and if they’re going to be coachable,” he said. “The kids listen and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Grade 12 veteran forward Michael Pereira is the leader and will be looked upon to be a top s corer. Exchange student Dan Heppt will be a key player at the point guard position and the Dolphins will also be lo oking to returnee Wes Richardson.
The Dolphins senior boys will play an exhibition against a Dover alumni team Thursday (Dec. 20) at 7 p.m. at the school gym.
DOVER BAY DOLPHINS GIRLS
The Dover Bay Dolphins think if they play a scrappy style, they can be right in the mix in the senior AAA girls’ league.
Coach Dale Nicks said the Oak Bay Bays girls are the class of the Island in the early going this season.
“After that it’s just going to be a dogfight for whoever’s going to place second and get that challenge berth [to provincials].”
For Dover to be that team, it will need to improve its consistency, practise with intensity and stick to a game plan.
“Because we are so short we try to press teams, because teams that are bigger than us are going to kill us with their half-court offence,” Nicks said. “We try to press and then out of that we try to get lay-ups out of turnovers.”
McKenzie Nicks is the team’s top scorer and point guard Jenna Ziemanski is the other primary scoring threat. Gabby Jeffrey is another veteran contributor and Grade 11 forward Francesca Maestrello has emerged as a valuable addition.
Dover’s next league game isn’t until Jan. 24, when it hosts the Alberni Armada in a 5:30 p.m. game.
WELLINGTON WILDCATS BOYS
The Wellington Wildcats possess size, skill and depth, and they’ll be daunting in the senior AA boys’ league.
The ’Cats return most of their starters from last year, when they placed seventh at Islands, and have better depth. Early this year they are ranked sixth on the Island.
“Our key is our height,” said Glenn Johnson, Wildcats coach. “We want to pound the ball inside and control the boards on both ends. If we do that, we’ll be a fairly tough team to beat.”
Aaron Copley is the go-to guy in the post, where he scores and rebounds and also blocks shots. Brad Jenks, another veteran forward, is a good shooter and will also pull down rebounds, and veteran guard Dustin Olsen brings energy and smarts at both ends of the court.
New addition Tyler Radelja can score both inside and out and might be the team’s best defender, while Dylan Dorsey, another Grade 11, will score points in the post.
“We have a solid team,” said Johnson. “We’ll be better and better as the year goes on.”
The next league game for the Wellington senior AA boys is Jan. 8 when it visits the Woodlands Eagles at 7 p.m.
WELLINGTON WILDCATS GIRLS
The city’s highest high school hoops expectations will come from Wellington’s senior girls. Nanaimo’s only provincially ranked team – the ’Cats are No. 6 – will be trying to make a return trip to the B.C. championship tournament.
“This year there’s a bit more expectations,” said Nicole McRae, the team’s coach. “Provincials are obviously a goal of ours but you’ve got to get to North Islands first, and then at Islands you’ve got to be in the top two.”
The Wildcats have tremendous depth, so even when starters are subbed off, the pace doesn’t slow.
Shooting guard Sara Simovic is the team’s star player but she will be surrounded with talent. Forwards Mariah Van Sickle and Montana Mjaaland are other top scorers and Taelar Keir can score and play aggressive defence. Post player Victoria Brown is a good scorer and rebounder and Ally Keir and Julie Zhao will switch off at point guard.
“We’re way ahead of where we started last year,” said McRae. “Because it’s the same offences, we know them, we already know how to work together. So it’s made a big difference.”
The Wildcats girls host the Woodlands Eagles on Thursday (Dec. 20) at 5 p.m.
NDSS ISLANDERS BOYS
Basketball only started a couple of weeks ago, and already this is one of the winningest seasons the Nanaimo District Islanders senior AA boys have had over the past several years.
The Isles have a big team, they have skilled players and they have depth, and opponents are starting to notice – Nanaimo District is ranked No. 9 on the Island.
“They’re excited, that’s the best thing of all. We have people that are happy to play basketball,” said new coach Eric D’Andrea.
Athletic Grade 10 guard Tyus Barfoot will be the catalyst of the offence, complemented by veteran scoring forwards Aidan Goodall and Eric Lindsay. Big post player Chris Martin will give opponents matchup problems. Guards Owen Simpson and Peter Le Patezour are two other contributors.
“I don’t think basketball’s been their main sport,” said D’Andrea of his roster. “We’d like to do as well as we could. Our expectations, they’re appropriate right now, but hopefully higher soon.”
The Islanders play their home opener Jan. 8 when they face the Barsby Blazers at 7 p.m. at the Nanaimo District Secondary School gym.
NDSS ISLANDERS GIRLS
It might be a transition year for the NDSS Islanders, but they’ve shown signs they’ll be competitive and win some games this year.
The Isles senior AA girls have a new coach and not a lot of returnees from last season.
“They’re a young group – they all need to learn to jell,” said Mike Lundine, coach of the NDSS senior girls.
Point guard Maddy Dawson has good basketball smarts and fundamentals and will be a key player. Veteran Pauline Dawson is a good shooter and Morgan Reid, another vet, will also be looked to for steady play. New addition Danya Nieman is the team’s best defender and another newcomer, Natasha Jensen, should be able to contribute even though she’s only in Grade 9.
“Tough defence, hard work, rebounding – those are the keys for us,” said Lundine. “We have a very athletic team, a very fit team so the offence, I hope, will take care of itself.”
The next home game for the Islanders is Jan. 8 against the Ladysmith ’49ers at 5 p.m. at the NDSS gym.
CEDAR SPARTANS BOYS
The Cedar Spartans senior AA boys play with a lot of emotion, which should serve them well over a short, intense basketball season.
The team doesn’t have a ton of depth, but it has a versatile roster that will be able to score both in the paint and outside. Coach Jarryd Engevik said he’d still like his team to get better at the other end of the court, though.
“We’re all right defensively, we just need to work on our defensive rebounding,” he said.
Tall post player Josh Lancaster will be relied upon for offence and will also be looked to for blocking and rebounding. Other primary scorers will be forward Justin Engevik and shooting guard Eric Sackey. Kyle Wolfe will man the point.
The coach said if the players show better commitment to attending practice, they have a chance at a good playoff run.
“I think we can achieve that if we’re all working hard and we get all our guys out…” he said. “When they are there, I like who we’ve got.”
Cedar’s next league game is Jan. 8 at Ladysmith Secondary School.
CEDAR SPARTANS GIRLS
Cedar’s senior girls were one of two Nanaimo teams to qualify for provincials last year, but getting back will be much more difficult in 2012-13. For one, the Spartans have moved up to senior AA after competing in the senior A league last year.
It’s also a younger team – coach Daryl Rodgers said sometimes the starting lineup consists of three Grade 10s and two Grade 11s.
“We’re still trying to learn what we’re doing on offence. It takes a little while,” he said. “So the more games we can play, the better.”
Stefanie Talboys, a guard, and Marika Grubac, a post player, are two of the go-to players on offence and guard Kelsey Hutt is another key player. Veteran post player Hailey Bradley is a strong defender.
The team started its regular season with two losses, but both those games came down to the final minutes, with Cedar losing by six points each time.
“Hopefully by the end we can give some of these teams that we’re losing to by six a run for their money in the playoffs. That’s our goal,” Rodgers said.
Cedar hosts the Wellington Wildcats on Jan. 8 in a 5 p.m. tipoff.
WOODLANDS EAGLES BOYS
For the Woodlands Eagles to be successful, they will need to get as much as they can out of every guy on the team. The senior AA boys’ basketball team doesn’t have much depth with just a nine-man roster. It poses challenges – the players will have to be well-conditioned and positionally sound on defence so they don’t pile up too many fouls.
“Coaching-wise, we have to take smart timeouts, let the kids rest,” said Franjo Crnkovic, Woodlands coach.
But he added that players will also have to dig deep.
“It’s mental. If you say you’re tired, you’re tired,” he said.
The Eagles are dependent on star Bryson Cox, a swingman who was the city’s highest-scoring basketball player in 2011-12 and will be expected to repeat the feat this season.
Forward Aaron Halsall is a contributor at both ends of the court and Jordan Murray will be the starting point guard.
Crnkovic said a lot of players on the team have the green light to shoot, and said he stresses a team atmosphere.
“If one guy doesn’t do their role, whether it’s talking on the bench or diving for the ball, we’re not going to win the game,” he said.
The next home game for the Woodlands Eagles is Jan. 8 when they take on the Wellington Wildcats at 7 p.m.
WOODLANDS EAGLES GIRLS
The Woodlands Eagles senior AA girls have a lot of pieces in place to have success, but they still have to work to fit it all together.
“The team is coming together very well, certainly quicker than I expected us to. We’re a work in progress,” said Carl Macdonald, the team’s coach.
Forward Michelle Berti is the Eagles’ top player at both ends of the court and also provides veteran leadership. Valeen Jules is a key contributor at point guard, T.J. Andjelkovic is a scorer in the post and Natasha Mayer on the wing is another leader.
“We’re going to have to rely on more people to contribute for us to be successful against the stronger teams,” Macdonald said.
Right now, he said, a lot of girls are able to contribute a basket or two.
“But that doesn’t get you a lot of points; therefore, we’re going to have to stop other teams.”
Next action for the Woodlands girls is Thursday (Dec. 20) when they visit the Wellington Secondary School gym to face the Wildcats in a 5 p.m. tipoff.
BARSBY BLAZERS BOYS
Football school or not, these guys can ball. John Barsby Community Secondary School is expected to floor one of its most competitive senior AA boys’ basketball teams in recent memory.
“We’ve been able to build the program over the last few years so that we’re not really starting from scratch every year now,” said Kirstin Polz, coach of the Blazers.
The key addition this year is Mert Seymen, an exchange student from Turkey who has basketball smarts and skill. Along with veteran swingman Austin Lyle, the Blazers will have a better rounded offence.
David Work is another leader, Kyle Vollet is a strong defender in the paint and Shawn Arabsky and Duc Truong are other contributors.
“In past years we have just been a scrappy team that would work hard, but this year we have more skill with the same intensity and work ethic,” Polz said.
The Blazers’ next league game in Nanaimo is Jan. 15 when they visit the Cedar Spartans for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
BARSBY BLAZERS GIRLS
The Barsby Blazers senior AA girls won’t look only to the scoreboard to measure their success.
The Blazers have some good athletes, but they don’t have a lot of basketball experience and many players don’t have a lot of experience playing team sports, either, said coach Craig LeTourneau.
So aside from the fundamentals, they’re also working on team play, and they’re making strides in both areas.
“What we’re trying to instil is being positive and doing something individually out there that is going to improve them each game and each practice,” LeTourneau said. “And how can we improve as a team, to take a step forward?”
Guards Carly Malinski and Brianna Wyse-Seward will be two of the key players. Taylor Sampson brings leadership and aggressive defence and Kaitlin Ovcharov will contribute at both ends of the court.
Barsby visits Cedar Jan. 15 at 5 p.m.