An annual basketball tournament that honours a stalwart and pioneer of the sport in Antigonish will take place this weekend.
The Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals Division 1 girls’ basketball team will host the Mabel Arsenault Memorial, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, at the Regional gym.
“We are playing for such a great cause and in honour of such a wonderful person,” Grade 12 forward Lauren Lowther said.
“It pumps us up and makes us really want to win the tournament. It is such a great motivator.”
Veteran head coach Gail MacDougall said the fall event is “a special one for us.”
“Mabel put so much into minor basketball and coached with me the first year that I coached [the Royals] at the high school level,” she said of her dear friend, who passed away in 2005, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
“She was somebody who always gave it her all on the court and was a great team player.”
The Regional and Avon View Avalanche of Windsor – coached by former Royal and Antigonish native Jeannie Flynn – will tip-off the six-team, two division tournament Friday at 2 p.m.
“It is a good balance from across the province. Hopefully, we are going to be ready and play to our abilities,” MacDougall said.
The Sackville Kingfishers, Sir John A. Macdonald Flames, CEC Cougars and Riverview Royals are the other squads in the field.
“It is a lot of fun,” Grade 11 guard Charleigh Clarke said of hitting the floor for a hometown crowd.
“It is exciting to play in front of everyone.”
‘Don’t let good enough be enough’ is the mantra the Royals have adopted this season.
“We are all really hard-working and we play together, which is going to be so important,” Lowther said, when asked about keys to a successful season.
Clarke and Grade 12 forward Jessica MacKinnon, who serve as captains with Lowther, agreed, echoing the importance of teamwork.
“We have a lot of new players that bring a lot of talent to the team,” MacKinnon, in her fourth season with the Royals, said.
Early in the season, MacDougall noted, the focus has been on playing strong defense.
“We have to be better, as a team, and that will lead to some increased success on offense,” she said.
“We have to get some stops and, right now, we are prone to fouling too much, which is costing us, in terms of minutes played, and giving up opportunities at the free throw line.”
Clarke noted improving on ‘D’ comes from hard work.
“If we talk on defense, it will pull everything together,” MacKinnon said, adding the Royals “feed off each other,” when they have success on that end of the court.
Clarke noted speed will help on both ends.
“We are fast – there is a lot of it [speed] on our team,” she said.
In early season tournament action, the Royals split a pair of games, starting with a 67-58 road victory over the rival Cougars.
Lowther led the Regional with 16 points and eight rebounds, while MacKinnon and Delorey also hit double digits, with 15 and 10, respectively.
In a 73-66 loss to the Park View Panthers, Clarke meshed a team-high 17 points, while MacKinnon chipped in 14 points and six rebounds.
Lowther finished with a double-double – 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Shooting for repeat
“Right now, our goal is to improve each week; get better and gain more confidence,” MacDougall said, in talking about season goals.
“Some of the girls haven’t had as much experience, on the court, as we would like, but we are addressing that right now.
“We are younger than we expected to be, at this point, we will take what we have and we will go with it,” she added.
The defending Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF) Northumberland Region champions lost starters Hannah Bance and Jessie Weaver, via graduation, along with Briar MacDonald (King’s Edgehill) and Sophie Milner (Rothesay Netherwood).
“We have our work cut out for us, no question about it, but I think we will rise to the occasion,” she said.
“I think, come playoff time, we can be where we want to be – defending our regional championship title and, hopefully, earning another berth in the provincials.”