The Whistler Secondary School senior girls basketball team is looking to make a charge for provincials this season after starting their year off with a series of strong results and close games.
Despite barely meeting the requirements to be classified a AA school (the classification is determined by student population size), the girls are competing in a North Shore AAA league; facing some of the largest and most competitive schools in the province.
To add to their underdog status, the 10-player team is comprised of Grade 11 students, aside from one Grade 12 and one Grade 10.
“The thing about senior girls basketball is the teams that are the strongest are usually the teams that have the most Grade 12s,” explained head coach Alan Kristmanson. “That one year makes a huge difference. We would be classified this year as a really young team, so it’s going to be all about how fast the girls can get up to that Grade 12 level this year.”
However, they’ve nonetheless managed to make their presence known on the court. So far this season, they’ve lost 55-50 to Carson Graham Secondary, ranked ninth in AAA, beat Handsworth Secondary 51-35, beat Centennial 60-52, and played number six ranked AAA school Oak Bay, losing 70-56.
“The girls have done really, really good. They’re kind of stepping out of their paygrade a little and playing some really tough teams,” Kristmanson said, adding that with their athleticism serving as an asset, the entire team has successfully contributed to the effort.
“The girls are getting a ton of experience against some really good schools. That will really help us come playoff time, when we end up playing against our own AA schools, which is the league we should be in… Hopefully we can stay healthy and have a good run through the playoffs here over the next couple of months.”
To qualify for the provincials, the girls have to compete at a Lower Mainland tournament in the new year. If they’re successful, they’ll move onto provincial championships, scheduled to take place in March. With many of the players returning from last year’s group, the Storm is sure to be looking to improve on last year’s 11th-place performance at provincials.
“There’s some really good AA teams, though, especially in the North Shore where we have to play,” Kristmanson said. “The goal is to make it to provincials, that’s what they all want to do. Once you get to provincials, anything can happen, and it’s difficult getting to provincials, but that’s the main goal, trying to get to the big tournament at the end of the year.”
In order to do just that, the girls will have to continue to play outside of their comfort zone, Kristmanson explained. “We have to work on taking care of the ball and just being able to play the game at a little higher speed, and they’re starting to do that. We’re shooting the ball well and we’re defending really well. Our team’s really athletic and they’ve done a nice job really stepping up to the level of competition. I think they’ll realize, ‘holy crap, we just played the best there is and we’re pretty good, if we work on a few things we could be really good,’” Kristmanson added. “I’ve seen lots of growth in their game so far this season.”