Intensity key for Fundy - Feb. 04, 2014
Fundy High School’s Taylor Cooke, left, runs into a hard foul from Lauren Broad of the Carleton North Stars, during a varsity girls basketball clash that also serves as a preview of a Friday playoff clash.
It wasn’t pretty, as wins go, but the last regular-season game on the Fundy High School varsity girls basketball calendar certainly helped underscore what the team has to do to win in the post-season about to begin.
The FHS Mariners edged the Carleton North Stars in a 46-62 home-court win Saturday. The Mariners, clearly the better team, deserved to win, but at the same time delivered a performance that left room for improvement.
The squad built a 10-point lead after 10 minutes, but struggled with uncharacteristic turnovers. The lead narrowed to six at the start of the second half, before the Mariners collectively elevated team play.
By the time the contest was over, a clear pattern emerged: when the Mariners played physically, when the players were willing to take an elbow to the face to score in the prime area under the basket, when opponents’ bodies landed on the floor, the Mariners were, collectively, a better team.
I think it’s just a focus issue,” stated head coach Ryan Daye. “Seniors were coming in, saying it would be their last home game – there were all sorts of reasons, and we weren’t great.”
Perhaps, too, there was a little elevated tension derived from the knowledge the Stars will be the Mariners’ first-round opponent in the forthcoming regional qualifying tournament. The format of the regionals, as in past years, places considerable pressure on the first game, which automatically eliminates four of eight teams from play: whoever loses Friday goes home, while the victors know they will play next weekend, somewhere.
The offence, said Daye, wasn’t quite where it usually is.
“We tend to get some energy, when our young kids make shots, and they didn’t make them today.”
But at the same time, the squad played a solid defensive game, one that proved key in defeating Carleton, while not revealing all the looks that Daye will be likely to unveil the next time the two teams clash.
Fundy now has the luxury of preparing for a single opponent, with no other games on the week’s slate prior to heading for a critical rematch in Rothesay.
The vital observation from the contest, that Fundy seems better when it plays with intensity and a physical edge, was not lost on the veteran coach.
“We talk about that all the time. Defence means bodies on the floor,” he said. “When we get to being us, and us is being fact, and being aggressive, and being aggressive …”
The sentence conclusion is obvious: a key factor in where the Mariners go in the playoffs lies in how willing the players are to commit to gritty basketball, playoff basketball.
Veteran Maddy Stevens, who helped lead the physical play, concurred with her coach – the Mariners, on Saturday were not as focused as they need to be, as they must be, from now on.
“I think we’re feeling pretty confident … we know we can bet them, but we have to play with the mindset we could lose. We need to go in with a lot of intensity,” she said, summarizing what she viewed as the necessary mindset of confident, but not cocky.
Now in Grade 12, Stevens has played a lot of basketball in the blue-and-white garb of the Mariners, and said she is confident in the ability of this year’s team to play well now that the playoffs of February have arrived.
“I feel pretty confident with our team.”
And if there’s a lesson to be taken from Saturday’s game, it may not fare well for those who the Mariners have to face: “We play better when we are more aggressive,” Stevens stated.