One of the first big basketball tournaments of the high school season is front and centre at Belmont secondary this weekend, with the Bulldogs right in the middle of things.
The 32-team Victoria Christmas Invitational gives local senior and junior girls squads a chance to test their skills against opponents from around Greater Victoria and as far away as Alberta.
Coach Brad Lidstone’s senior Bulldogs are one of 16 teams in the tournament’s Gold Division. While he has just two returning players this season – forward Martina Pittroff and post player Drew Rush – and mostly Grade 11s and 10s on the roster, he likes the energy his current group brings to the court.
“We’re a smaller team, but the girls are very committed,” he said.
Rush, a tall and physically imposing player who picked up the sport late, “has probably worked as hard as anyone” to get ready for the season, Lidstone said. Pittroff brings experience on the wing, while Grade 10 point guard Ashante White controls the backcourt like a veteran, he added.
Then there’s the championship element: recently crowned provincial AAAA senior girls volleyball champs Savannah Purdy, Sydney Belton and Gracie May just joined the basketball team after an extended season.
“We’re kind of getting a late start because of their success,” Lidstone said. “But to bring that winning attitude to the basketball team is just huge.”
Unlike for teams like Oak Bay, three-time defending B.C. champion Brookswood of Langley and Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir, Lidstone and assistant coaches Kris Walushka and Lisa Therrien aren’t necessarily expecting big things from their crew this weekend. “For us it’s more about the process rather than the results. We want to be playing our best basketball in January during the city playoffs,” he said.
The Bulldogs open the Invitational today (Dec. 9) at 11:20 a.m. on home court against Ballenas from Parksville. A win there will put Belmont into a 4:20 p.m. game at home today, while a loss would see the Bulldogs play there at 4:00.
The senior tournament final and bronze medal games are at CARSA at the University of Victoria on Saturday at 4 p.m.
In the junior girls division, the defending Island champion Royal Bay Ravens open up against the host Thunder at Spectrum at 11:30 a.m., while Belmont takes on St. Michaels University School at 11:20 a.m. at Belmont.
Should the junior Ravens win they’ll play at 7 p.m. Friday at Spectrum, but an unexpected loss would see them play there at 5:30 p.m. Meanwhile, a Belmont win would send them to a 7:10 p.m. game out at Stelly’s, while a loss would keep them on home court for a 5:40 p.m. game.
The final happens Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at CARSA, with the bronze medal game set for 2:15 at Belmont.