The Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals Division 1 girls’ basketball team will host the 12th annual Mabel Arsenault Memorial Basketball Tournament this weekend.
“It is going to be a competitive field,” head coach Gail MacDougall said.
The competitors include the Royals, along with the Dartmouth Spartans, Citadel Phoenix, Riverview Royals, Memorial Marauders and CEC Cougars.
The Royals will tip-off Friday (Dec. 1), at 2 p.m., against the Marauders and Phoenix (6 p.m.).
The other first-day games will have Riverview versus the Cougars (4 p.m.) and Spartans (8 p.m.).
Round robin action will wrap up Saturday (Dec. 2), with the Phoenix and Marauders (9 a.m.) along with the Spartans and Cougars (11 a.m.)
Consolation match-ups are set for 1 and 3, followed by the championship at 5 p.m.
“Mabel and I coached the first year that we started with the high school program,” MacDougall said of her friend and tournament namesake, who passed away in 2005.
She added Arsenault, along with Patti Smith – another mainstay – coached and led minor basketball for years.
“Mabel was a great player and a great coach. She was somebody that really enjoyed the game of basketball, and she put back into the system what she got out of it.
“We certainly love holding it in her honour,” MacDougall said.
An award is presented, in her name, to a Royals’ player.
“It goes to someone who shows a lot of work ethic – that’s the way Mabel played. She had that determination and she had that drive, and that’s what we want our girls to do,” MacDougall said.
This is one of two tournaments the Royals host, along with the Ian Spencer Memorial.
“We play so much on the road, so to be able to play at home is always good,” MacDougall said.
They will play only three home games during the Northumberland region regular season.
“With that in mind, it is great to be able to play on your home court in front of your fans,” MacDougall said of the tournaments.
The Royals have eight returning players, including Grade 12 co-captains – Hannah Bance and Jessie Weaver.
Briar MacDonald, who played in the 2017 Canada Summer Games, Jessica MacKinnon and Lauren Lowther, who MacDougall described as “very athletic,” are Grade 11s.
“We hope to get a lot of good minutes from her,” she said of Lowther.
Grade 10s includes Madison and Taylor Gorman, along with Charleigh Clarke, who played with Nova Scotia’s under-16 team, and Cailunn Bance.
“We have three Grade 9s – all very athletic players – who moved up from the bantam program,” MacDougall said of Sophie Milner, Malia Artibello and Sophie Delorey.
The veteran head coach described lack of size as the team’s “most obvious deficit,” noting MacDonald, at 6’2”, is a perimeter player.
“We will have to use our skill and athleticism – and our speed on the perimeter – to generate some offense.”
When asked about keys to vying for a provincial championship, MacDougall said they will have to be “a very good defensive team.”
“We have been struggling early, offensively, which, I think, will come. We have a couple girls that are providing offense, now, but we have to build it up to maybe more than three players per game scoring in double digits,” she added.
Getting back defense, MacDougall said “it has to be our bread and butter.”
“Right now, we have to hold teams to under 60 [points], for sure and, hopefully, under 50 points, and that’s what we are spending a lot of time on, right now,” she added.
In the recent CEC Fall Classic, MacDonald – the player of the game – and Weaver scored 12 points apiece in a 67-33 loss to Fredericton High.
Lowther won the coach’s award.
In a 65-62 over Lockview, MacDonald, with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and player of the game Weaver (16 points and 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles.
MacKinnon chipped in 12 rebounds and Artibello earned the coach’s award.
Led by 24 points and eight rebounds from Weaver, the Royals edged CEC 76-71.
Milner, the player of the game, scored 19, which MacDougall called a “great game,” while Clarke (coach’s award) and Lowther added 15 and 10, respectively.