You have to be hammered by the elite at first if you want to be one of them, says Alberni District Secondary School Armada senior girls head coach Greg Freethy.
The seniors girls are headed back to Victoria this weekend to play in the Lambrick Park Santa Slam basketball tournament.
The Armada are getting in four games at the event and although it’s an exhibition tourney, the level of competition is still high.
“If we want to get stronger then we have to play against stronger competition,” Freethy said. “And that’s where the consistent strong competition is.”
The Armada’s first game is against Lambrick Park, who beat them twice last season. Then, it’s a rematch against Mt. Doug before squaring off at Saint Michaels and finally McNeil of Vancouver.
It’s back to the belly of the beast for the Armada, who went 1-2 at the Christmas Classic tournament in Victoria last weekend.
They faced an old foe in Spectrum, to whom they lost 63-57. And they beat a new team —MELA Zerte from Edmonton—by a score of 62-44.
But the team’s most valuable lesson came in the form of an 84-41 loss to the AAA No. 3 ranked Brookswood Bobcats of Langley.
“They looked like the No. 3 ranked team in the province,” Freethy said.
The Armada held their own with the Langley powerhouse and were only down by five at the end of the first quarter.
But Brookswood’s swarming man-to-man defense and full court pressure soon had the Armada’s Leah Hudson and Danielle Lessard in foul trouble.
With the Armada’s offensive catalysts locked up the slide was on. “When it was over it was over,” Freethy said. “We just kind of lost our fight in us after that.”
Bobcats stellar player Sydney Williams was unstoppable and torched the Armada for 36 points.
Armada defensive stalwart Paige Hansen is recovering from a knee injury and will likely be out until Totem in early January.
The loss wasn’t deflating so much as it was valuable, Freethy said.
“We’ve never seen that kind of pressure before and it shows us the level we have to play at to compete with the elites.”
The team is working on breaking pressure defenses at practice and refining its offense with more net driving opportunities before it heads back to Victoria this weekend.
“It’s opportunities like those that are going to make us stronger,” Freethy said.