Sorry for neglecting to post about our final couple days at Nationals, but like the athletes, I too was mentally drained at the end of the event. Now that I’m laid up with my foot in a cast (long story…but nothing too serious) I have more than enough time on my hands.
As most everyone knows by now the BNB U17 men’s team failed to win their last two games at National which placed us eighth. Not exactly the finish we were looking for but at least it’s a small improvement from last year’s ninth place finish. The silver lining is 8th should place us in a pool at the 2013 Summer Games that gives us a legit chance at avoiding the #1 seed in the quarter finals.
To summarizes the last two defeats at Nationals (89-66 to Alberta and 74-60 to Saskatchewan) in a single phrase….poor mental approach to adversity.
Following the Ontario quarter-final game we appeared to be in good shape. Despite the lopsided score we felt we battled hard and competed to the end. We also took pride in the fact we made it difficult for a very athletic Ontario team to score in their half-court sets. Following our team meeting to debrief the Ontario game and to go over the scouting report for the Alberta team, we felt the team was in good shape and focused on winning the consolation bracket (5th place).
Unfortunately we came out very flat emotionally against Alberta and were never able to “flip the switch” once the game started. I’m not sure if the players assumed they would roll pass Alberta or if they felt they didn’t need the same energy they displayed against Ontario, but regardless the result was we never came together as a team. The term I used to describe our play was “lack of trust” as it appeared the perimeter players didn’t trust dumping the ball inside for post touches and that our bigs didn’t trust the ball was coming back if they pass out when the defence collapsed. This resulted in too much one-on-one play and many challenged shots.
Against Saskatchewan we had a great start to the game both physically and emotionally, but once we hit a little adversity at the end of the 1st quarter the “trust” issues reappeared, causing us to struggle on offence which lead to Saskatchewan going on a 26-4 run. In the second half we did a much better job of playing together but we were never able to get closer than 10 points.
From my perspective there was little difference between our team and the teams that finished 2nd through 7th. These differences are well within our control to overcome and are not related to lack of athleticism or size. For example Manitoba (2nd) and Nova Scotia (5th) depended on full court pressure and athletic perimeter players. They were two of the smaller teams to make the quarter finals.
Experience tells me that most people feel BNB should be developing players to play in the same style as Manitoba and Nova Scotia because we can not consistently field teams with enough skilled bigs to win the half-court, ground-and-pound games. Ironically, perimeter oriented teams that force an up tempo , full-court game are exactly the type of teams that give BNB squads the most problems.
As I said above, the differences between us and the other teams 2nd through 7th are manageable. Regardless if we decide to play up tempo or slow it down, we need to develop athletes that believe they belong at that level and have the confidence they are going to win regardless of the opponent. To me these are qualities Manitoba and Nova Scotia demonstrated often in the games I watched and were not always present for us. This will definitely be a big focus area for us as a coaching staff as we prepare for the 2013 Canada Summer Games.