After defeating Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Dolphins in a neutral-site, win-and-you’re-in game in Duncan Tuesday night, the Belmont Bulldogs senior girls basketball team are off to Port Alberni today (Feb. 19) for the Island AAA championships.
The West Shore girls came out hard early in the first quarter against the Dolphins, led by Isla Swanwick, who scored eight points on her first three shots of the game – two three-pointers and a deuce. But the Bulldogs were taking fouls on defence and giving up free throws that allowed their opponents to keep the game close with singles.
Belmont coaches soon got a feel for where how their opponent could be exploited, however, and the ’Dogs turned it on late in the first quarter and never looked back, taking the game by a final score of 72-54.
“I really think (dominating like we did) will only add to the girls’ confidence,” Belmont head coach Brad Lidstone said. “Once we had a healthy lead, we were able to rest our starters and other players got quality minutes and stepped up. We really wanted to keep pushing with our bench players so that they also gained that important confidence going into Islands.”
The boost gained from the strong victory will be needed, as the West Shore open the Islands today at 5:45 p.m. against league champion Oak Bay Breakers, currently ranked No. 4 in the province among AAA teams.
Lidstone said making it to the Island championships was one of the team’s main goals for the season, set out way back in November.
“We are in tough against Oak Bay,” he said. “But we are confident in our play and know that the top two get an automatic berth to provincials and third place gets to play a challenge game to get in.”
Lidstone feels they have the talent, both on and beside the court, to challenge for a title.
“Our team versatility really allows for the opportunity to match up well against any type of team,” he said. “We (as coaches) create a plan and we let the girls work within that framework,” adding that making in-game changes to exploit perceived weaknesses in the opposition, as they did Tuesday night in Duncan, makes them a real threat.
It also helps that they have talent like Swanwick (25 points in the win over Dover Bay), a pair of tall, talented players who can play under the basket in Jess Thomsen (21 points, 19 rebounds) and Claire Church, and someone like Alysha Walton running the offence from the point guard position, bringing the ball up the floor and making that crucial first pass into the zone.
The Island championships wrap up Saturday in Port Alberni and the provincial championships go March 4 to 7 at the Langley Events Centre.