With a new coach and new roster, save for Red Knights standout McKenzie Sigurdson, Northern’s senior girls basketball team is looking to head back to the City Championships.
Four games into their season, the Red Knights hosted west-end cagers Humberside, Oct. 12 and pulled out a 55-41 win with little effort.
Taking over for last year’s coach Wendy Luck is Bryan McAlpine, known for his work with Northern’s senior boys squad.
No stranger to hardwood strategy, McAlpine has been impressed by a crew, replete with three grade nines, who have emulated his offensive, defensive and transition tactics in-game.
“I’ve basically taken a handful of sand with these girls and thrown it at them,” he said. “They’re picking it up faster than anticipated.
“It’s a lot to chuck at a team,” he added. “They’ve kind of done what my boys have taken two years to do and done it in a short couple of months.”
Aside from her artistry in the paint, Sigurdson has been drawn to the role of leader.
“I really love being in that spot,” she said. “I love getting my teammates better, especially in the post-season.
“We have a lot of grade nines contributing very well this season and it’s fantastic because you can see just how well they’ve developed in the last four games.”
Those key freshmen are Julia Chandler, who had eight points and five rebounds, Mahal De La Durantaye contributing seven and Laura Kinoshita assisting as well as threatening from the arc.
During the game, Humberside put the pressure on Sigurdson, forcing her to dish off to the lane or to the outside, where De La Durantaye and Chandler would be waiting.
Huskies key players were Sara Fassil, with seven points, three steals and five boards and Juliana Melkis, who contributed a team high 10 points. The two wanted to pull close to the Red Knights, and led a fourth quarter charge, going on a 10-3 run.
“We just wanted to have a tighter score,” Melkis said. “We didn’t step it up in the beginning and we just wanted to show that we were better than when we started.”
Her coach, Kate McPherson, was disappointed with the tepid start from her charges.
“We missed a lot of free throws, we came out in the first quarter not quite ready to play,” she said. “They got a nice lead on us, and they did a very good job of not letting us beat them to that lead.”
Humberside’s lack of vim at the rim, and not anticipating Northern’s attack were McPherson’s two observations.
“The hardest thing as a coach is to elicit energy and offer all kinds of technical suggestions,” she said. “But something like going hard after loose balls comes from within, and this team didn’t seem to have it today.”
Northern faced Jarvis on Oct. 18, winning 61-23. Then tallied a default victory versus Bloor on Oct. 20, putting them at 5-1. Humberside matched up against Oakwood, Oct. 19, winning 77-63, giving them a record of 3-2.
Still, the Red Knights look forward to their next match, likely in the South Region finals, against E-Comm.
McAlpine has let his girls develop poise, and he’s optimistic they’ll get far and pose a bigger threat than their 94-52 loss on Sept. 22.
“We don’t know where we stand with (Eastern Commerce) in the future, but we know we didn’t give them our best game,” he said. “We look forward to our next rendez-vous.”
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