In the world of high school basketball, they say the court turns in the direction of seniors.
Often the most successful teams rely heavily on their graduating class, which means two completely different directions for the Notre Dame Cougars senior girls and boys basketball teams.
With the senior season kicking off on Tuesday at Notre Dame, both squads hosted the Wetaskiwin Sabres.
Ed Major is in his second season behind the Sr. Girls bench and explained after a tough 54-33 loss in their season opener, there’s definitely some potential in the roster despite the opening-game woes.
“We have lots of skill,” he said. “We have the tools to be a very good team, if we can just get it together. This is our first game, so the girls are trying to figure each other out. We have some good ball players.”
Major spent several years as the program’s senior boys coach, but was hoping to build something on the girls side so that his daughter, now in Grade 8, will have something to aspire to when he hits the high school circuit.
“This is our building block, and I told the girls, you guys are the girls I want to build something with, and you guys can do it if you buy in,” he said.
The veteran coach noted that he’s seen a lot of progress from day one last year to the beginning of this season, and hopes that every day his team can progress and grow as a group.
“We’re a veteran team, so we hope that those skills come out, and those vets do step up and make good decisions and provide the leadership we our looking for,” added Major about his team that has eight returning girls this season.
On the boys side, Stephen Merredew is looking for the same cohesion from his team. He only has four seniors for the 2016-2017 season, but believes strongly that the development in junior varsity ranks will help the senior Cougars this year.
“It’s a young team, but they played very well in the junior varsity program. It’s always very well coached,” he said. “The guys are ready for this level. We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of returning players, so it’s a bit of a work in progress. We’re still trying to find the right roles for all the guys.”
It was an all hands on deck performance that lead to a 68-63 win over the Sabres.
Although it was far from smooth sailing Tuesday, including watching his team almost let a 46-13 halftime lead slip away, Merredew likes the talent he has seen on the court so far.
“In the first half, we definitely saw when the guys are focused and they work together on defence, they are pretty dominant,” he said.
“Wetaskiwin has some guys that can handle the ball and penetrate, they had some athletic big guys and we were doing a good job at shutting them down… [in the second half] when guys start to think about offence first… that’s not usually a recipe for success.”
The scoring surge late in the game that powered the Cougars to victory came from some lineup juggling that had Chad Majek erupt for 31 of his 36 points in the final two quarters. Four Cougars were also in double figures on Tuesday, led by Issac Colosimo with 13. Rudy Soffo added 12 points, while Vince Martin added 11 points and 7 rebounds in his Notre Dame debut. Jeb Maribojoc crowded the stat sheet with 10 points, nine rebounds, six steals and assists.
Notre Dame will host the annual Cougar Classic on this weekend with action starting at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.