If you want to be the best you have to beat the best.
For six Pictou County girls they beat out a number of other players from around the province to make their respective Basketball Nova Scotia provincial teams. It’s not a walk in the park to make these squads and each one has made sure to use it as an experience to keep improving. Some were on teams in the past, while some made BNS teams for the first time.
Aliyah Fraser and Lucia MacKay made the U-14 squad this year, their first time playing on a provincial team. Their summer season is complete after playing Gold Rush, the Bluenose and Acadia’s Axewomen tournaments.
“I met lots of really nice people and made lots of friends I wouldn’t have met other ways,” said MacKay. “I learned how to play a flex offence, which is different from the pass-cut-fill offence I’ve always played. We also worked on ball handling, situations, and using time and space.”
Fraser said she improved her shooting and dribbling the most this summer after moving out of the post.
“I focused on ball handling and a bunch of different finishes,” she said. “We had a lot of fun and cheered each other on a lot.”
At the U-15 level Riley Sood was named to the competitive team, while Katelyn Biron played for the development squad. Biron and her team are done for the summer after competing in the Bluenose, Redrock and Summerfest tournaments.
“I really enjoyed getting to know people and make new friends,” said Biron, who was also a member of the U-14 team last summer. “We learned a lot skill-wise from the coaches this summer and worked on different defensive principles.”
Sood, who also played U-14 development and competitive basketball, will travel to Edmonton Thursday for nationals. In preparation, their team competed in the Bluenose and a tournament in Quebec.
“The chance to get to go to nationals is great,” she said. “It will be intense playing the top kids from all the big provinces. I’m also the youngest girl on the team so it’s exciting to play with the older girls.”
Locally, all four girls played for the Pictou County Lightning bantam and the New Glasgow Junior High ‘A’ teams this season. Although early in the development of the Lightning club program it has assisted all of them in developing into players for the provincial program.
The lone player on the U-16 squad was Kendra MacKinnon. This was her fourth year with Basketball Nova Scotia after playing U-14 and U-15 twice. She spent this year with the NNEC varsity girls program and will return next season.
“This summer I had to learn how to play a different position that I wasn’t comfortable playing during the year,” she said. “I was more in the post position than the wing, but it helped me improve my drive to the hoop. I also had the chance to learn how to play with different players and different skill sets, which makes you better.”
Alyson Fulton, the final county player on a provincial team, played U-17 basketball. This year she attended Halifax Grammar School. In the past Fulton played with U-14, U-15 and U-16 provincial teams.
She will also travel to Edmonton Thursday for nationals, her second trip to the big stage.
“You learn a lot of different intensities playing with the top players in the province against the top players from other provinces,” she said. “You see new levels of competitiveness that you might not have seen before.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris