QUEBEC CITY, QC — Practices are one thing, but real game action is a totally different experience.
For student-athletes that are making the jump from high school basketball to the collegiate game, it’s a different game. The players are better at the collegiate level. It’s a much faster game, and it’s more physical on both ends of the floor.
Coaches will do their best to prepare their teams in practice for in-game competition, but they can only do so much. That’s why exhibition games and exhibition trips are so important for teams to prepare for the upcoming season. They provide teams with the opportunity to bond as a team, while also gain valuable in-game experiences to help players get accustomed to the collegiate life and help teams find out who they are as a cohesive unit.
For the Algonquin College Thunder, their recent trip to Quebec was about just that. Head coach Jaime McLean and the women’s basketball team from Algonquin College took part in three exhibition games in the province of Quebec against top-level RSEQ opponents. The trip was important for the team’s newcomers to get acquainted with the collegiate game, while also helping his team find their identity and identify areas that they can improve on moving forwards.
While the Thunder left with an 0-3 record, the trip was still deemed a success by McLean.
Up first for the Thunder was a contest against Cegep Trois Rivieres. Algonquin College led at the half, but ultimately fell when all was said and done, 57-48.
“This was the wake up our rookies needed to prepare for college basketball,” said McLean in a statement regarding his team’s trip. “The physicality and pace of play did not run over our team but they were able to learn quickly to hold strong.”
From there, the Thunder took on the Champlain St. Lambert Cavaliers in the second of three games. Again, Algonquin College brought their best in an attempt to pick up a win over the Cavaliers, but Champlain St. Lambert came away with the 71-59 victory.
Sunday, the Thunder closed out their trip with a contest against the Dynamiques de Sainte Foy. Like Friday, the Thunder led at the half and gave the Dynamiques everything that they could handle over the 40 minutes. Strong defensive pressure from Sainte Foy limited Algonquins’ scoring offense, but the Thunder held a lead down to the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
With under five seconds to play and the Thunder leading by a pair, 62-60, the Dynamiques were able to inbound the ball and get a shot off before the buzzer. The shot fell, and Sainte Foy escaped with a 63-62 victory over the Thunder.
“This was the first true showing of the potential in this years group of athletes,” added McLean. “The girls started to compete for each other and started to gain trust in each other.”
They may have dropped all three games, but the Thunder will return to Ontario with a heightened level of trust in one another and with collegiate experience under their belts, both of which make the trip a success for coach McLean and the rest of the Thunder.
“Our Rookies have stepped up big time and have now been exposed to the physicality of the RSEQ and are begging for a rematch,” concluded McLean. “The goal is now set, the mountain to climb is tall but not insurmountable.”
The Thunder are back in action on Friday, September 21st, this time on their home court. They will welcome the Nomades de Montmorency to town, who will undoubtedly provide Algonquin a tough test ahead of the 2018-19 season.
– T. Bennett