Thursday, March 29, 2018

YHS Grade 8 Provincial Champions

We started the season with only 12 grade 8 girls coming to try-outs, so didn't need to worry about making any cuts. Luckily, the 12 players almost all had some basketball background, including 5 who had played with us on the Cobras. 

With Ariano Catena and Katherine Atkinson splitting the coaching duties with me, we had a coaching team capable of being at every practice...and figuring out the priorities for the team. We focused on 

  1. playing good 1/2 court team defence (pack-line) with aggressive ball pressure and early help
  2. Establishing a long and short safety, getting 3 offensive rebounders and then pressing whenever possible
  3. Getting 1 rim runner and 2 wings running wide on our fast break
  4. Establishing good spacing and movement in the 1/2 court with a 4 or 5 out motion offence
The girls were great. Although they had many competing demands of their time, when they showed up they were focused and ready to play. They seemed to have fun with each other and established a great team culture.

We won all our league games fairly easily, with only a terribly refereed game in Crofton House, with Avery missing, Finny and Mila fouled out, that we were truely tested. In this game, 5 different players scored in the final quarter for us to pull out the win. 

We only lost 4 games all year. The first was in the finals of the Douglas College tournament when we faced a 3D team that had been playing together all fall. Although we were within 2 points in the final minute, we ended up on the losing end thanks almost entirely to our lack of experience playing against pressure. As much as turnovers were a problem, the biggest issue was that their pressure took us out of our offence and left us scrambling. Great lesson. 

Although we easily won (by about 40 in the finals) the grade 8 ISA provincial championships, we lost in the semi-finals of the JR (grade 10) ISA provincial championships to a strong Saint Michael's University team from Victoria. Although I think we were the better team, they had one really strong girl that we weren't physically ready to match up with. We won the consolation final to give us 3rd place. 

The other 2 losses were both in tournaments where we lost to Seycove in the finals. One game was relatively close and the other a 20 point loss. Seycove was the top ranked team in the province and executed better than any other team out of their full court press break and their 1-4 high offensive set. 

In our losses, we didn't feel like we played our best games. Also, we played all 11 players on our team while they only rotated their top 7. We were excited to see them again in the provincials.

We won our first 2 games at provincials by 40 points, despite not playing great. Our girls were nervous and turned the ball over way more than we should have against weaker opponents. In the semi-final we played a much stronger McMath team that we beat 35-33. Although we were clearly the better team, our girls struggled to shoot the ball against a 2-3 zone. Perhaps a coaching error, we had not spent much time preparing for zone (which is banned until the provincial championships).  Between nerves and lack of zone offence experience, we kept the game much closer than it should have been but lead the whole way.

We figured we'd see a lot of zone against Seycove, especially since they watched our semi-final game. Despite only walking through our new zone offence for 1/2 hour before the game, we felt confident going into the final. Seycove basically had 2 players who scored, where we had 5 different people lead our team in scoring this year. 10 of our players had scored in the tournament and we moved the ball well. 

We came out on fire, up 14-4 in the first quarter. Despite the foul count being 12-3 against us at half, we still had a solid lead. Our girls never let up our defence, our pressure, our rebounding...and they took care of the ball. They did everything we asked of them and won 46-40.

 Wow!   A huge congratulations to our grade 8 YHS Tigers team! The coaching staff is so incredibly proud of your work this season. 

Yes, the championship was nice....a really great way to finish the season that no one can ever take away from you. However, much more important was seeing your growth as individuals and as a team over the last 4 months that allowed you to compete for a championship in the first place. 

You showed resilience, focus, and great mental determination to overcome all the obstacles in your way. I hope that this reveals to each of you a little more about your inner strength and possibilities for the future in basketball and life. 

As part of the educational take-aways from this season, I think it's important to know why you were able to win a championship. 

Sometimes teams win championships because they get hot, or lucky at the right time. This wasn't the case for us.
  • We didn't have the greatest offensive performance of the season. We hit 2, 3 point shots in the whole tournament and did not shoot particularly well outside despite great preparation by you with Dr Dish.
  • We were unlucky with the referees. In the final two games we faced some serious headwind with the refs and had to play with a lot of personal fouls. In the finals, the foul count was an incredible 11-3 at half, despite you girls playing with your feet instead of reaching.
  • Several times down the stretch of the final game we played great defense for 25 seconds only to find Seycove throwing something towards the hoop and have it go in. Although it felt like things were against us, you never gave up or lost focus. 
You won a championship because you worked as a team. 

You played better team defense than any other team in the tournament by far. Seeing you defend all tournament...but especially in the final 5 minutes of the game when Seycove desperately needed to score and could barely get a shot off, made us so proud of your growth this year! 

You won a championship because you did a better job sharing the ball than any other teams. Like every team, we have a few players who score the ball more than others. However, unlike other teams, we had everybody contribute this year. 4 different players lead our team in scoring during games this season. We shared the ball and trusted all our team-mates to pass, dribble and shoot when the opportunity presented. We did this all season...and it paid off. 

You won a championship because you prepared better than other teams. The time you spent shooting as a team and individuals paid off. Even though we weren't "raining 3's", there were a couple of key shots that probably wouldn't have gone in if not for the time spent with Dr Dish. Rain had a good shooting tournament. Vanessa, Kasey, Anika and Chloe had some big shots. Sophie hit some of the most important shots of the tournament at the end of both the McMath and Seycove games. It is this type of focus and dedication that is necessary to win championships. 

You won a championship because of sacrifice. You all accepted and played your roles on the team. A championship team is not made up of 5 players who all concentrate on scoring. It is made up of 11 players who are willing to do what it takes to win. Risa set the tone early in the season, playing such hard defence she broke her collarbone. In the finals, Bianca and Anika were vocal, engaged, supportive and ready to go in the game if Avery or Finny picked up another foul. Zoe jumped in to fill some key moments of game. Perhaps nothing exemplifies sacrifice more than our Unsung Hero Sophie K. Nobody worked harder on defence in this tournament than she did or helped their team more without receiving the limelight. Sophie was dialed in every defensive possession and shut down the best players from Churchill, McMath and Seycove.

You won a championship because all of you took your game to the next level. Avery, who has been fantastic all season, played even harder than ever and lead us with her performance on both ends of the court. Finny and Mila eliminated the reaching fouls, cut down on turnovers and turned their defense up to an even higher level than the regular season. 

You won a championship because of your work level. We talked about how winning a championship wasn't supposed to be easy...and you all embraced the challenge. We told you that you'd need to rebound even harder on both ends of the floor, and you did it. 

You won a championship because you were willing to face your fear/nerves, accept them for what they are and play through them. You showed such maturity and pose. Next time you're really nervous about something I want you to remember this.

We're so proud of all of you. If you keep up the hard work over the off-season, we can have an even better season next year.  We'll talk during the week to figure out the details of your hard earned shooting club prize.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mazatlan December

Well, it turns out this is now mostly a vacation blog. We feel the most guilty about not updating the blog when we are on holiday, apparently. Because here I am, as I have been so many times before, blogging in a hotel room.

We felt the need for a break this year...maybe because we didn't have our November trip like in the past. No dose of sunshine for 3+ weeks as we have in other years. With Molly AND Finny in high school, it seems like those trips are harder and harder. So, we had to steal the kids away (well, not Finny...she was already on Christmas break) for the last week of school to head to some sunshine in Mexico. 

A quick four hour flight and we were by the beach. 

The land of tacos (although, I have to say...while these tacos were photo-worthy, they were madly spicy. Something I put on there BURNS. These were not happily consumed. They were mostly discarded and reattempted...and there's the beauty of all-inclusive buffets!). 

Sure, a week isn't very long, but some vitamin D, downtime on the beach and delicious drinks on the beach does somehow feel like medicine in the middle of December. It may not be exotic, adventurous or culturally challenging...but it feels so good.

We came down with three of our coaches: Eric, Kevin and Connor. We have logged some time in the reclining chairs, hit the buffets and played a bit of volleyball.

Finny was super keen to get her hair braided and Molly decided to do the same. I don't think either of them realized how tight they would have to pull to get those rows straight, but I think they'd both say it was worth it.

Especially impressive for Finny, who would have lost her mind on me if I'd pulled that hard...

...or taken that long...

Molly is a bit more tolerant, since I did her hair so often when she was little. But her tolerance has faded over the years...

Even she winced a bit.

But the braids are easier when you are in and out of the pool and ocean. The resort is lovely with good food and nice rooms. What stands out most is the service. We have marveled at the level of organization and the size of the operation here. They have done a fantastic job of making you feel well taken care of, even in the middle of a huge resort with many hundreds of guests.

There are no lines, always available chairs and drinks...even our check-in took less than 5 minutes. Pretty amazing.

The wonder of all-inclusive has worn off slightly, but the first night was hilarious as the kids realized EVERYTHING was included. There has been a LOT of ice cream consumed. And a lot of Shirley Temples and other slushy drinks by the pool.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

E- Cobra Europe Trip

This summer I took our Cobra 8/9 boys team to Europe. We flew into Vienna and billeted with families in Mattersburg. We visited Sopron, Furstenfeld/Loipersdorf, Oberwart and Bayreuth. The boys played some great basketball. Here is a video of our trip.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

E- Eurotrip

9 months after the trip ended...but better late than never.


Friday, December 30, 2016

E- Joffre Lakes

With Xmas over, a short break from firefighting and basketball...and over 18" of snow in the region over the last 24 hours, we decided to head to Joffre Lakes for a snowshoe hike up to the second lake.

The trip was great with the only snag being the bumper to bumper traffic from Squamish to Whistler. When you look at the pictures you'll see why. Apparently it was a record day on the mountain.

Here's the Whistler convention centre. Hard to tell where the roof ends.

Thanks to my Mom (yes we live in Canada and do NOT own any snow tires) we were able to piece together the equipment needed for the journey and stay relatively warm throughout.

There were a few snowballs, a couple falls in tree-wells, some bum slides, tackles and a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

California Dreamin'

In years past, when we were a little more fancy-free with sports schedules and school/work obligations and pressures, we'd take the month of November to escape to the sunshine of California or Florida.

Well, with older kids (hello, high school!), rep hockey, basketball (both for the kids and running programs for us) and other activities and sports, we just don't seem to have the month to spare. But somehow the lack of time doesn't lessen our desire for a dose of natural Vitamin D. So, modifications are required. 

Eric had a basketball tournament in Phoenix from Thursday to Sunday last week. He flew down on Wednesday. We decided to meet when he was done in California. As soon as the kids were done school on Friday, we jumped into the car and turned south. 

It was pouring rain and it was dark and cold. So much fun to feel we were leaving it behind (even if it was very temporary). We made it to Tumwater, Oregon for our first night (after a pretty grim Denny's dinner...our server was overwhelmed by the small crowd we entered with. He told us he stopped and prayed for Jesus' help with getting in our orders up. I gave him a nice tip...I think he needed it.)

We woke up the next morning, had a nice hotel breakfast and drove into Portland. I am physically incapable of driving past Portland without visiting Powell Books. So detour, we did. We were each allowed a purchase (except for me...I bought a Powell mug, a Powell water bottle, and a, the kids had to talk me out of a Powell t-shirt and a Powell bag. Hmm, as I write it down, I think they had a point...). 

We hit a Trader Joe outside of Portland and settled in for a long drive. We didn't even stop for dinner. But we did make it to Redding, California. Woohoo!

The next morning, we set a goal of making it to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield by 1:00 for a tour. Lots of jelly beans tasted...but none of us had the courage to try the new flavour: dead fish. 

We had a few hours before we had to pick Eric up at the Oakland airport at 9:30. So we headed into San Francisco for a quick visit. We drove the waterfront, both bridges, had a nice dinner and walked the pier. 

Then it was time to get our silver medalist from the airport. Pick up was smooth and in no time we were driving the long and lonely I-5 between San Fran and L.A. We made it to Los Banos for the night. 

In the morning, we had breakfast and the kids went for a swim. Then off to L.A. to find the perfect neighbourhood for trick or treating. We grabbed some last minute costume items and had a quick dress-up session: Finny was Medusa and Molly and Lukey were basketball hoops (using their basketball hoop garbage bins from their bedrooms they brought all the way from home). Finny, who always take a lot of care with her costumes was dismayed by the popularity of the other two's costumes. People had a lot of fun trying to score by shooting their candy into the baskets. This resulted in extra candy scoring. Finny's quote of the night was, "I'm taking field year, an interactive costume". 

We chose Studio City for trick or treating. It's hard to know if there was anything any more Halloween festive in the area, but I doubt it. The neighbourhood was awesome. So many decorated houses and streets blocked off for block parties. We loved it. 

We walked around for a couple of hours and really enjoyed the feeling of a "foreign" Halloween experience. 

The next morning, we got up early to drive to Anaheim. Disney!!

I love Disney days. They are so special and each time we go, the kids are at different ages and it's a different experience. 

Right away, Finny scored us a spot at the front of the line to get a picture with Mickey. A good omen.  

The weather was perfect, the crowds were light. The only downside of visiting in November is the Disney powers-that-be choose the quiet time to refurbish some rides and lots were closed. Some weren't sad at all, like It's a Small World (who needs that song stuck in their head?). Some were a bummer, like the Jungle Cruise (I love that one), all of Critter Country and Space Mountain. Still, there was lots to ride, so it was all okay. 

We discovered that even though the kids are older and presumably more coordinated, they still aren't good at driving at Autopia...

After much discussion, deliberation and what felt like endless self-debate, Finny purchased her long-desired mouse ears, complete with her name embroidered on the back in gold. 

There are so few days in your life as a family that are purely devoted to fun (even a really great party ends with doing dishes at the end of the night). I really feel that days spent at a place like Disney (or other magical places we've been on holiday, too) push us into a special space where we have a different fun and create unique memories. I suppose that exact concept is what Disney has been marketing so successfully for decades, so I am not really offering up any revelation here...but, there are only so many years we can take this sort of trip and have the magic of a place like Disney play a role. So we have to enjoy it.

The next morning, we slept in a bit, made a mess of the hotel breakfast room (those make-your-own waffle machines are like cat nip to our kids...I should try getting them to make waffles at home!) and then headed off to Huntington beach for the day.

A ginormous beach, awesome surf, sand as far as the eye could see...I was even in the middle of a good book. It doesn't really get any better. The kids were playing a bit of baseball and picked up a stranger (adult!) on the beach who wanted to get in on their (pretty pitiful) game. He played with them for about an hour (!).

We packed up a little early to get back into downtown in time for the Clippers game (they were playing OKC). We grabbed dinner on our way into the Staples Centre and headed to our seats (Lukey, Finny and I were in one section and Molly and Eric in another). It was great luck that we happened to catch a great game. I also really enjoyed the fully-French girl sitting behind us. There was a promotion on that if the other team missed two consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter, the whole place got a free chicken sandwich (the promo was called "Miss it for chicken!"). She was SCREAMING behind us every single time in an incredibly thick French accent, "Meeees eeeet, meeeeees eeeet for cheeeeecken!!!!" I almost died.

It was a great and amazingly cheap evening out (it is criminal how inexpensive tickets are for some truly good sporting events in L.A....I think Lukey and Eric would be out every night of the week if we lived there).

The next morning, we headed off to Universal Studios for more fun.

There were NO crowds...we walked on every ride, including the Harry Potter ride three times in a row, with no delay at all. The kids rode the roller coaster in Harry Potter six times without even getting off...(I made it for three and then practically sprinted away...gak!).

The Studio Tour was a big hit. They have upgraded it a bunch and it was an amazingly entertaining hour.

Some of the special effects were really incredible to see.

Because it was so uncrowded, we pretty much had the run of the place and we made it everywhere we wanted to see.

But I have to say, my favourite was the Jurassic Park ride...because Molly, for some weird reason, was convinced that she was going to die on that ride. For real. I laughed and laughed and laughed. The last time we went on, she refused. She didn't want to wait alone for it...she sat in the Child Swap area for us to be done. Normally that is where parents switch places on the ride so they can supervise their kids who are too small to ride...or, it's where 14 year olds with active imaginations hide out UNSUPERVISED while BOTH their parents ride with their siblings. It. Was. Hilarious.

We should have sent her to hang out with the girls from Despicable Me, instead. That's more her speed.

I don't know if I was just in a really good mood that day, but the purple minion's arms also made me laugh...the way they drag on the ground. Ha!

That night, we left for dinner at Red Robin and then we were going to head to the LA Kings game (they were playing Pittsburgh!!), but somehow StubHub steered us wrong on the time of the puck drop. We didn't leave the restaurant until the end of the first period. So, we decided just Eric and Lukey would go and watch the rest of the game (they got tickets for $6/each!!!!!! I guess because the game had already started...). The girls and I hung out in Whole Foods close by and waited for the game to be done. 

The next morning, after breakfast room destruction, there was some pool time before heading back to Universal Studios.

Some more shows, more rides...and of course, more Jurassic Park!

It was wonderful and tortuous. We knew we were starting our drive back to Vancouver and rain as soon as we left that evening. The sun was shining...the rides were all open and empty. There was an In and Out close by...but we had the I-5 calling our names.

One quick ride in the train compartment to Hogwarts (apparently Eric WAS NOT supposed to take this picture!)

We had time for one more angry Raptor encounter (there's video) where Finny stared down a Raptor and got screamed at (again, I nearly peed my pants I was laughing so hard)...but then we had to face facts that our California Dream was pretty much done...

Goodbye L.A!

Homeward bound, we came across this gem in Oregon (somewhat alarming!!!). I have to admit, that made the drive home to CANADA a little less hard. Of course, I never imagined that two days later...they would ELECT him!!!!??

It was nice to be home, after all.