Busy opening week for Mustangs

Senior girls prepare for tournament in Agassiz this weekend

Sydne Mitchell (left) and Azalia John put the pressure on a St. John Brebeuf player in Monday’s season opener for the senior Mustangs

I had intended to get some photos of the Hope Secondary senior girls’ basketball practice on Monday — but a fellow choir member told me at Sunday mass that her daughter would be playing in Hope on Monday.

I emailed head coach, Jeff Kuhn — lead pastor at Grace Baptist Church — to confirm when the game would start.

“Jeff, do your girls have a game at HSS tomorrow? 6:15?”

“Yes… St. John Brebeuf.  We’re not ready for it…but it’s coming anyway.”

“I heard from the mother of a Brebeuf player,” I added.

“Did you get any scoop about their team?” asked Kuhn.

“Just that they are a bunch of Catholics… so look out for the ‘Hail Mary’ plays, LOL!”

“Thanks…if only I could get them to kneel when we are shooting,” replied the coach.

As it turned out, that might have been a good plan. The Mustangs’ shooting was in need of a few prayers, especially in the third quarter, where the visitors padded their lead by an extra 10 points on their way to a 48-30 win.

The first quarter was tight, with Brebeuf only leading by two foul shots — and by the half-time break, Hope was only behind by eight points. Azalia John and Amanda Lancaster led the Mustangs with eight points each in the first half and Lancaster added another eight in the second half.

“I was really happy with our first half,” said Kuhn on Tuesday. “Really happy, overall.

“Obviously, we ran out of gas. We were about two weeks behind where I wanted us to be in our preparation,” he added. “We had just learned the full-court press and it was starting to work. It takes a lot of effort, though, so the girls got tired and I think that affected their shooting in the second half.”

Kuhn said the loss of four starters to graduation has changed the attributes of his line-up.

“We’re trying to capitalize on our strength, which is our speed,” he explained. “Several of our girls are really quick, so we’re trying to make our defence be our best offence. I thought our zone defence was really tough, going for the ball aggressively.”

The team is working on their tenacity in practice and in games, spurred on by a new program Kuhn has initiated.

“We call it ‘Maniac of the Day,’” said Kuhn. “The team manager keeps track and the girls get points for things like steals, back tips (knock-aways from sneaking up from behind), deflections, offensive rebounds and other great plays. They also lose points for fouls and turnovers.

“The bottom three get to run five laps after practice and the winner gets a Maniac-of-the-Day point. When they get five points, they get a T-shirt that says ‘Mustang Maniac’ on front. Azalia was our maniac last night and she’s got four points so far,” said the coach. “I’ve got two tickets for the Globetrotters’ game for the player who gets the most Maniac points this season.”

The senior boys had their season opener on the road versus Abby Christian last night (after press time). The girls and boys host Agassiz tonight, with the girls’ tip-off at 6:15 p.m. and the boys at 8 p.m.

It’s a busy week for the girls, as they are in the Agassiz tournament this weekend, with their first game at 6:15 p.m. on Friday against L.V. Rogers.

The senior girls host their own eight-team Winter Invitational tournament on the Dec. 12-13 weekend. Hope faces Lake Country in the opener, at 12:15 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12. Donations at the door will go toward the basketball program.

Thursday, Dec.18, past grads will try to school the current Mustangs in the annual alumni games. The women play at 6:15 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m.

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