Sadie Jeffries plays an important role for the RDP Queens basketball squad.
The second-year guard out of H.J. Cody in Sylvan Lake can start, as she has five times this season, if needed but plays an instrumental role coming off the bench.
“She is one of the character players who fills out a team in a good way,” said Queens head coach Avery Harrison. “She communicates well and is consistently giving instructions in a positive way. She works hard every day and her defence has been fantastic for us.”
Sadie joins a team that believes in defence first.
“I love playing defence, in fact, our team is energized by our defence and our defence translates to offence,” she said.
Queens veteran guard Sandra Garcia-Bernal is the premier defensive guard in the ACAC and her energy and enthusiasm “rubs off on the rest of the team.”
“Getting an opportunity to play against her in practice every day really pushes me … it’s good for me,” Sadie said. “In fact the whole team benefits from practicing against her. Her defence is crazy.”
Sandra set an ACAC record with 121 steals this season in 19 games. The old record was 115 in 24 games. She also equalled the single-game record total of 11 twice this season.
In one of those record-equalling games — Feb. 11 at Grande Prairie — the Queens set an ACAC mark of 43 steals.
“That night Sandra’s enthusiasm did rub off on everyone,” added Sadie.
Sadie got into basketball at an early age and had the desire to play at the post-secondary level.
“It was always a goal of mine,” said the 20-year-old nursing student. “We didn;t get to finish my final high school year because of Covid, but that spring I reached out to Mandy (Botham) and she got back to me about coming here.
“I didn’t necessarily believe I would play here, but I had my mind set on going where I could play. I was registered in school here so it worked out and they have a really good nursing program.”
Sadie is in her third year of nursing and has one remaining.
Like the majority of rookies joining the Queens was a bit of a shock.
“The speed of the game and the speed at which the players think the game was certainly different than high school,” she said. “And overall the players are bigger.”
The five-foot-six Jeffries spent her first year — the Covid season — practicing, so last season wasn’t a complete shock.
She played in 16 games and averaged 11.7 minutes per game.
This year she’s up to 15.2 minutes per game and increased her points per game from 2.0 to 4.9. She also shot a solid 40.4 percent from the field.
“I think my increase in confidence really helps,” she said adding she was a bit surprised to start five games.
“For sure. There’s several guards ahead of me with more experience. But I feel comfortable this year and playing more is a lot of fun. “
Sadie does a good job of handling the ball, as she played point guard in high school, and of course is solid on defence.
“Everyone feeds off our defence,” said Harrison. “Defence is our shinning light and it got better and better as the year went on.”
The Queens finished second in the ACAC’s South Division with a 15-6 record, and take a 12-game winning streak into the playoffs, which begin next Thursday in Lethbridge. The Queens will face the winner of the Keyano-NAIT play-in game.
“We played a play-in game last year (losing in Medicine Hat) and I think we benefited from that,” said Jeffries, who admits last year had its ups and downs.
It started with Botham at the helm but she left at Christmas with Ed Major taking over for the rest of the season.
“Last year was a tough year with the changes and everything,” Sadie said. “But Ed did a good job coming in and helping bring us together and make the playoffs.
“Avery has been great this year. He has so much knowledge. He gives us a different perspective with his systems and I like the way he runs practices and coaches us.”
Harrison came in and introduced two-a-day practices prior to the season.
“It seemed crazy at the time, but that brought us together when we needed it,” said Sadie.
But it was a team get-together following a loss in Lethbridge just before Christmas that played a major role in the Queens success.
“We got totterer as a team and reflected on what we needed to do to improve and to support each other.”
The next day they defeated Lethbridge by 20 points and never looked back.
“We have a good tight group and we’re able to talk and work together.”
Sadie believes that team camaraderie will benefit them in the playoffs.
“We got better every week and everyone is excited about the playoffs … just to see what we can do.”
The top two teams advance to the Nationals.
As for Sadie, she’s looking forward to continuing to develop this year and next.
“I guess I hope to continue to improve in every area … just do the best I can do.”
Plus she’ll be busy at the hospital.
“Definitely but I’ve learned to manage it,” she said.
The Kings are involved in a play-in series at St, Mary’s in Calgary. They meet Medicine Hat Friday with the winner clashing with St. Mary’s Saturday to earn the final playoff spot.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com