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Progress in a season of change for X-Women basketball

St. F.X. X-Women Kimberley Kingsbury (#8) and Brianna Gottschall position themselves for a possible offensive rebound in a game last month at the Oland Centre, versus the Dalhousie Tigers.
St. F.X. X-Women Kimberley Kingsbury (#8) and Brianna Gottschall position themselves for a possible offensive rebound in a game last month at the Oland Centre, versus the Dalhousie Tigers. - Sam Macdonald

Team next in action at the MSVU hosted annual Dyrick McDermott Invitational Tournament, Dec. 30 to Jan. 1

ANTIGONISH, N.S. - Fans of HGTV home renovation shows will recognize that when investors buy homes for resale, some projects are just little fixer-uppers while others are complete tear downs and rebuilds. For St. F.X. X-Women basketball new head coach Lee Anna Osei and her staff, they took on an approach closer to the latter than the former.

“I think, considering the change that has come in with me and my staff stepping in with a different culture and style of play, the girls have really responded the right way … we have really good buy in,” Osei said in an interview with the Casket, assessing her team as they headed into the holiday break.

“All of our players have been doing really well academically, which I’m really proud about. Our culture is getting better and better; we spend a lot of time together and I think we’re starting to see it on the floor.”

On the floor, it hasn’t been a great start for the X-Women as they sit with a 0-6 record in AUS regular season play, after recording a few victories in pre-season action.

Osei said the break comes at a good time as the team deals with a few injuries to key players.

“We like the idea of having this intermission of a month and change,” she said. “We’re dealing with some injuries and missing some important pieces; that has impacted our playing.

“My staff and I have looked at this first semester as an opportunity to track our efficiency level, in terms of things you can track statistically and things you can’t really track. What do we look like on the court in terms of our competitive fire … our intensity level? What is working for us in games?”

Osei said one point of emphasis has been getting up more shots.

“Get your feet set … we want to be a team that shoots a lot of threes,” she said of the goal.

“We knew coming into this season we were amongst the last teams in our conference, also across all of U Sport, in terms of putting the ball in the hoop. So scoring in transition or within 10 to 15 seconds, as opposed to the end of the clock; we have had certain goals we’ve been able to accomplish and that we’re, slowly, getting better at.”

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She noted another significant change is going with a smaller roster.

“We have 13 on this year’s roster and that includes one red-shirt, so, technically, we’re playing 12,” she said.

“It allows for a shorter rotation; and we have a lot of youth, figuratively and quite literally. We have five to six athletes in their first year of eligibility and then we have a few returners and, with them, we’re asking them to really step outside the box; we’re asking them to do things that haven’t been asked to do for two, three, even four years.”

Osei said there has been a lot of work on skills during the first few months of the season.

“I think that is starting to show as well,” she said. “We’re hoping with second semester coming along, we’ll be able to secure our first regular season victory. We had a couple of wins in the preseason but, we know, it doesn’t mean anything until you get that regular season win.

“So we’re checking off small boxes but, once we get our girls healthy, I think things will change for the better.”

MSVU tourney

Before the X-Women return to AUS regular season play Jan. 4 at St. Mary’s, also a winless team at 0-7, they’ll compete in the Mount St. Vincent University hosted annual Dyrick McDermott Invitational Tournament, Dec. 30 to Jan. 1.

“We’re going to use that as a tune up,” Osei said. “With the AUS scheduling, not playing a game in a month, it definitely has an impact.”

She stressed game reps are particularly important to her younger team, who are still making a lot of adjustments on the fly.

 “We’re going to miss that, definitely, over the next month,” she said. “In entering the MSVU tournament, it’s not, really, just about getting our starters out there and trying to play to win; as much as it is getting the girls tuned up for AUS play again. We’re back on the 27th, we’ll do some conditioning, get some game shot reps and be ready for a really busy second half; more than twice as many games [as already played] between January to March.”

“Attention to detail”

Osei said defensive play is another area of emphasis which fits well into assistant coach Bill Hannah’s “defence-first” approach.

“That works really well with my style in terms of getting up and down the court,” she said.

“We have been focusing a lot on defensive principles and have had to do a lot of un-teaching in a sense; so it’s the attention to details.”

Rebounding is another area to improve upon; made more difficult by the fact the X-Women don’t have a true post player in the line-up.

“I think if you look at our six regular season games, we’ve lost every single rebounding game,” she said. “There is almost a 20 to 30 differential in offensive and defensive rebounding, so that is going to be a focal point going into second semester. If we’re going to get some wins, we’re going to have to finish plays with boxing out and we have to create second chance opportunities for ourselves.

“It has been a point of emphasis for ourselves these last few months but it’s just one of those things where we’ll get better as time goes on, and we’ve seen it. We’re doing a lot better job of crashing [the boards], fighting for 50-50 balls and putting the body on somebody, but we need a lot more of that and, we’re hoping, with getting our post players back in action, that will help us as well.

“The technical parts are huge for our girls.”

The X-Women’s next home game is Jan. 9 versus Dalhousie. Tip-off at the Oland Centre is 6 p.m.

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