Car­bon­ear bas­ket­ballers ready to re­peat

Sen­tinels start sea­son as de­fend­ing champs

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.”

Fine-tun­ing

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.”

Rookie thoughts

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.

Pho­tos by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Guard Emily Kennedy pushes the ball up the court dur­ing prac­tice.

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