The RDC basketball Queens are making a significant run at a playoff spot and Sandra Garcia-Bernal is a major reason why.
The five-foot-five point guard from Valencia, Spain has added a fire to the team that has been contagious.
She plays with aggression and energy any championship team needs.
“I’m aggressive, that’s the way I’ve always played, especially on defence,” she said.
Head coach Ken King calls it Spanish fire, something that always didn’t sit well with the officials.
“The referees don’t allow you to touch like at home,” she explained.
That cost Sandra, especially during the first half of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season, when she consistently got into foul trouble.
“We saw the same thing with Eva (Bonde) and Emily (White) when they came over (from Denmark),” said King. “It’s the way the game is called here compared to Europe. The Europeans are more aggressive, which is one of the reasons we wanted her (Garcia-Bernal). She’s had to make some adjustments to stay in the games.
“It’s a mind set thing. We don’t want her to play soft, but be smart … use her body and move her feet to play defence.”
“I did cut down on my fouls but I still try to be aggressive,” she added.
Sandra hasn’t lost her ability to play defence, plus despite her height she’s second on the team to White in rebounds with 5.3 per game, including 15 in one outing. Something she finds a bit surprising.
“I never had rebounds much, never went for them,” she said. “But this year Ken said to go for them and I focus more on that.”
“She has that desire that’s why she has so many,” said King. “She wants the ball more than most people on the floor.”
Garcia-Bernal got into club basketball in Valencia when she was 11 and played until arriving in Canada in 2016, when she took a job as a nanny in Grande Prairie. It was while there she decided to look at continuing her education and basketball.
“A friend told saw me playing and told me I could make it at college,” she explained. “I went to a tryout camp at MacEwan University and the coach contacted Ken.”
It took Garcia-Bernal time to get adjusted, besides with the officials.
“I played club basketball my whole life with one team,” she said. “Coming here everyone was new and I had to get used to everything.”
Sandra always played point guard, something she now shares as a starter with Bonde.
“When I first came here I needed time to get used to the team I didn’t feel comfortable as a point guard,” she said. “But now I’m comfortable. And I love playing with Eva. She’s more relaxed than I am and she controls me that way while I give her some energy.”
King loves what she brings to the team.
“That Spanish Fire is something she has to control when it comes to the officials, but it’s easier to slow someone down than to speed them up … plus I love the fire she brings.”
Sandra is in Open Studies, concentrating on kinesiology, which she hopes to get into next year.
The Queens face St. Mary’s University of Calgary in a must-sweep home-and-home series — Friday in Calgary and Saturday at RDC. The Queens sit fifth in the South at 11-8 with St. Mary’s fourth at 12-7.
The Kings, 12-7, will finish third with a sweep over St. Mary’s (4-15).
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org