Belmont Bulldogs senior girls players Isla Swanwick

2014-15 HOOPS PREVIEW: Versatility the key for Bulldog girls

Belmont girls anxious to show they can play with anyone on the Island

The start of a new season is a good time for players and coaches to shrug off any disappointment from the previous year and move forward toward a new goal.

The Belmont Bulldogs senior girls basketball team is very much in that mode as they embark upon the 2014-15 season. With six returnees in a lineup featuring good speed and size – five players are nearly six feet – the team’s head coach is already feeling optimistic about the new season.

“With our versatility and our depth, we should be able to be more competitive,” says Brad Lidstone, one of a roster of five specialists who work regularly with the team.

Last year late-season injury problems to key players left the Bulldogs on the outside looking in for the Island AAA girls tournament. The two finalists from that event, Oak Bay and Claremont, are once again the pre-season city favourites, ranked No. 2 and 9 in B.C., respectively.

But Lidstone, whose team is one of several to host this weekend’s Christmas Classic tournament, is excited about the opportunity for Belmont to show they belong in the conversation about top teams on the Island.

“This is one of the first years that we can play both big and tough or small and fast,” he says. “Triple A girls on the Island is so competitive … and being able to adapt on the fly is huge.”

As such, the team doesn’t really run with the traditional guard, forward or post positions, preferring instead to see virtually everyone as potential perimeter shooters or inside drivers. Grade 12 Hannah Allen is considered the closest the team has to a post player, but even she moves away from the middle if needs require it.

The Bulldogs finished fourth at last weekend’s Vanier Towhees tournament in Courtenay (see below) and plan to use this weekend’s experience to get a further sense of what they need to work on, Lidstone says. The city league opener is set for Dec. 16 at Belmont against defending Island champion Claremont.

“It’ll be a great gauge for how our season will go and for finding roles for different players,” he says.

The squad has 15 players, which on some teams might mean precious little floor time for certain individuals. But the coach insists every player will need to contribute “quality minutes” for the team to have success late in the season.

He also points to the team’s chemistry, not to mention the emotion surrounding the upcoming move to the new school, as key intangibles that may contribute to that success.

Grade 12 player Isla Swanwick shares Lidstone’s optimism. “I think our chances (to make Islands) are really good; we’re really competitive this year,” she says. “When it comes to the top teams I think we’ll have a really good chance against them, possibly not to win, but to have a good fight.”

Fellow senior Frelen Gorst, a true guard and defensive specialist, sees tournament play as being a good team-building experience. “I’m excited to see how far we can get as a team,” she says.

Claire Church, a skilled Grade 11 shooter who Lidstone expects big things of this season, says the team has already made strides since the Brentwood game.

“We’ve been playing with each other for a while, and that’s going to (create) an advantage (and help) our outcomes playing this year,” she says. “We’ve got good chemistry and good knowledge of each other’s skills.”

Lidstone sees his team matching up well with the likes of Oak Bay, Claremont, Mount Doug and Spectrum locally and other AAA teams up Island.

“If we can stay healthy and control what we can control, we’ll be fine,” he says.

The Bulldogs open the Christmas Classic at noon Friday (Dec. 12) against Nanaimo District Secondary. Twelve teams from around B.C. are competing at Belmont, with Spectrum, Lambrick Park and Stelly’s also hosting games.

Watch this space soon for the Belmont senior boys season preview.

’Dogs close, but wind up fourth

After handing Edward Milne of Sooke a lopsided loss in last Friday’s opener at the Vanier senior girls basketball tournament in Courtenay, Belmont dropped a three-point decision to the host Towhees in the semifinals. The Bulldogs, playing their first tourney of the season, lost by 12 to Carihi in the game for third/fourth.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

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