Carbonear basketballers ready to repeat
Sentinels start season as defending champs
The world of sports is built on a couple of things — athletic performance and clichés.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find a cliché for just about every situation imaginable, but perhaps, one above all others.
You hear it at the beginning of every season. Whether it is basketball, football or Premier League darts, repeating as champion is the hardest thing in sports. Just how hard is it? That’s the question facing members of the Carbonear Sentinels female basketball team at Carbonear Collegiate. The team enters the 2014-15 season with a target on its back after winning the AAAA tier II provincial title.
“We went to tournaments where no one had seen us play before,” said forward Mallory Gillespie. “This year, where we won, they know us now.”
That much is true. The Sentinels snuck up on teams last year with their tenacity, strong team play and penchant for performing in crucial moments.
It started with a silver medal at the McDonald’s Classic in Gander last January. The team turned heads there, but even that was not enough to prevent the Sentinels from being ranked last heading into the AAAA tournament last season.
Teams returning to the court with a championship banner hanging on their gymnasium wall might fold under the weight of expectation.
“I think it pushes us,” said Gillespie of having that pressure. “A little bit of competition makes me want to try harder to win.”
The gymnasium at Carbonear Collegiate is alive with the usual sounds of basketball on the afternoon of Oct. 21.
The Sentinels are just starting practice. Players sprint up one side of the floor and down the other. As they do so, the floor vibrates slightly as they bounce the 28-inch basketball.
“We usually practice for October and get into games around November,” said coach Ed Jarvis.
With the sounds of today’s Top-40 hits blasting from the speakers, the players fine-tune their fast break, work on defence and the classic give-and-go before settling in for some free throws.
Taking a minute to watch the practice, one thing is clear. They are fast.
They push the ball on offence and move their feet when defending. “Speed kills,” Jarvis quipped. So does experience and the Sentinels have that in spades. The team features 11 returning players from last season’s title run. There are 14 players on the squad.
“We have a good combination of size and speed,” said Jarvis. “That’s something we’re going to work on this year.”
It can be an intimidating process, being the new player on a championship team.
There is the pressure of being the new kid on the block, along with wanting to prove you belong on the squad.
Brianna Meadus is no different. This is her first season with the team and while she feels the weight of integrating herself into the Sentinels’ lineup, she is just as excited about honing her skills and getting better.
“It feels great to be on the team,” said Meadus.
Carbonear Sentinels female basketball team member Jasmine Slade goes up for a lay-up during practice on Oct. 21.
Guard Emily Kennedy pushes the ball up the court during practice.