The Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals Division 1 girls’ basketball team will host the 16th annual Ian Spencer Memorial Tournament this weekend in Antigonish.
Round robin and playoff action will take place Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Regional gym.
“We are hoping to go out there and put on a good show,” head coach Gail MacDougall said.
The tournament honours the late St. F.X. business professor who had a tremendous passion for and made great contributions to the sport in the community.
MacDougall described Spencer as a “big supporter” of the Royals, including providing his public address announcing expertise for tournaments.
“Ian would do anything he could to help us – he loved the game of basketball,” she said.
The top-two teams in the round robin tournament, which includes two three-team divisions, will clash in the championship game Saturday at 5 p.m.
“I think it will be a very consistent and balanced tournament and, hopefully, everything goes over well,” MacDougall noted of the field.
She said veterans Lauren Lowther and Charleigh Clarke – the Royals top scorers this season – and fellow co-captain Jessica MacKinnon will have to be key contributors, if the home team is to compete for the championship.
MacDougall noted Grade 9 point guard Emily MacDonald – the team’s third leading scorer and second leading rebounder – has been “playing very well.”
“We are going to need contributions from all of our players to be successful this weekend and for the rest of the season,” she added.
A pair of Cape Breton teams – the Memorial Marauders and Sydney Academy Wildcats – will join the host team in the Royals Division.
“We haven’t faced either one of them this year so that’s, basically, why we put them in our half of the draw, just to get a look at them,” MacDougall said.
She described the Marauders as “always feisty.”
“They are a guard-oriented team with a lot speed,” MacDougall said.
She added Jessie Beddow and Christine Thomas are leaders for the Sydney Mines team.
“They are always well-coached and they will be tough,” MacDougall said.
The Royals have not played the Wildcats in two seasons.
“I think it will prove to be an interesting game. I think, size wise, we will match up very well,” MacDougall said.
“We will have to wait and see what comes out of that one.”
The Spencer Division will include the 2018 tournament runners-up – the C.P. Allen Cheetahs – along with the CEC Cougars and North Nova Gryphons from the Northumberland region.
“They are doing very well this season in the Metro league,” MacDougall said of the Cheetahs, who are 8-1 in league play and 18-3 overall.
Winners of tournaments earlier this season at CEC and Lockview, they are led by Hilary Shea and Rachel Aske.
“They are very strong at the guard position and shoot the ball very well,” she said, adding “they like to pressure the opposition.”
MacDougall noted they play a 1-2-2 press that turns into a 2-3 zone defense.
She said the Gryphons, under head coach Andy MacKay, are “playing very well” again this season.
“They are a young team – they don’t have any Grade 12s on their roster,” MacDougall noted.
Traditionally, the Gryphons play a 1-3-1 zone defense, but she said they have been using more man-to-man of late.
“We will have to see what they come out with this weekend,” MacDougall said, adding their consistency has been a key throughout the season.
Isa MacKay and Kaitlyn Jota are key players for the Gryphons.
The Cougars – 11-9 on the season – will be led by Jillian Higgins, who is returning from a broken nose.
“She brings a lot of offense to their team,” MacDougall said.
She added Maddie Greatorex “controls the pace of play,” while Leah Adams is “an effort player,” who is a strong defender and rebounder.
The stretch run
The home court tournament will tip off a busy February in what MacDougall said has been a “challenging” season for the Royals.
When the veteran bench boss sat down with the Casket, the team sported an 8-16 record.
“Consistency has become a problem, in terms of our play. We have to be better defensively and we have to be better on the boards, so those are things that we are going to continue to address,” MacDougall said.
The Royals will travel to New Glasgow Feb. 4 to play the Gryphons, while they will welcome the Cougars Feb. 6 for their final regular season home game.
They will wrap up tournament action at an event hosted by the Avon View Avalanche in Windsor.
MacDougall said the Royals’ offense has improved lately.
“We are scoring better than we have been earlier in the season,” she added.
On the defensive side of the ball, MacDougall noted, the team has “to do a better job of keeping players out of our key.” “
And then, we have to box out,” she added, reiterating the importance of rebounding for the Royals.
“We don’t have great size, so we have to get a body on our opponents; give up one shot and then get the rebound and look to go in transition and create some offense that way,” MacDougall explained.
As for the playoffs, the Royals will travel to Truro Tuesday, Feb. 12 to face the rival Cougars.
“You win and you move on; you lose and you are done,” MacDougall said of the second and third-place match-up in the Northumberland region.
“We need to be better – in all aspects of the game – when we face them,” she said.
The winner will move on to play the Gryphons for the regional crown and a berth in the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF) Division 1 championship tournament.
Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals
Sydney Academy Wildcats
North Nova Gryphons
C.P. Allen Cheetahs
Friday, Feb. 1:
2 p.m.: Wildcats vs. Royals
4 p.m.: Cougars vs. Gryphons
6 p.m.: Marauders vs. Royals
8 p.m.: Cheetahs vs. Gryphons
Saturday, Feb. 2:
9 a.m.: Wildcats vs. Marauders
11 a.m.: Cheetahs vs. Gryphons
1 p.m.: 3rd Spencer vs. 3rd Royals
3 p.m.: 2nd Spencer vs. 2nd Royals
5 p.m.: championship game