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RODE: RDP Queens guard Sandra Garcia-Bernal on record-setting steals pace

By the time Sandra Garcia-Bernal leaves the RDP Queens basketball team she’ll have her name solidly etched in the team’s record book.

By the time Sandra Garcia-Bernal leaves the RDP Queens basketball team she’ll have her name solidly etched in the team’s record book.

Fact is the fourth-year point guard from Spain is already first in rebounds and steals for players who played strictly with the Queens.

Last weekend Sandra moved eight ahead of Emily White in team rebounds with 558 and already holds the mark in career steals with 230.

This season she leads the Queens in steals (6.3 per game), assists (4.1) and is second in rebounds (6.8) and points (12.5).

“She brings the whole package to the floor every game,” said Queens head coach Avery Harrison.

Sandra is pure and simple the Queens MVP. Even then she’s never satisfied.

“I feel like I can always do better,” she said. “As a fourth-year player I’ve been playing a long time and feel I have to bring more, but overall I’m happy.”

What she is doing this season — her first back after two years away — is provide more offence.

“That surprises me a bit as I’m not usually a scorer,” she said. “I’m forcing myself to look more for my shot as I usually look to create and look for the pass first. I never usually look for a 3-point shot at all but I’m doing that more often as well.”

It’s something Harrison wants from his star guard.

“We consistently yell at her to shoot when she has the shot,” he said. “She looks to set up her teammates, but it’s not an selfish play to take the shot when it’s there.”

Despite being listed at five-foot-five, Sandra is one of the premier rebounds in the league and in fact was third in the South and fourth overall in rebounding in the 2018-19 season with 190 boards.

“I’ve played the game over 20 years and seem to have something a lot of others don’t in knowing where the ball is going,” she explained.

But her biggest asset is defensive pressure and steals.

She already tied the ACAC record of 11 steals in a game this season and is first overall with 75 steals in 12 games — 40 short of the ACAC mark set in 2014-15 by Marie Lupe of Olds in 24 games. With seven games remaining this season Sandra has a legitimate chance at the mark.

“I’m always looking for the steal … Avery is pushing me to get the record and I’m trying really hard, although it’s not easy,” she said. “I’d love to get it as I love stealing the ball. It’s based on effort and I try to bring my max every game.”

Despite not playing the last two seasons — the 2020-21 because of Covid and last season after a conflict with head coach Mandy Botham — Sandra returned this year as if she was never away.

“I didn’t want to take the year off but I felt it was the right path for me … what was best for my mental health and come back stronger,” she said.

And she’s done just that. She could well play 40 minutes a game if needed.

“It’s great to be back … I never felt I was completely away as I came and shot with friends and worked out. There was no practice each day so more free time but I got used to it.”

The addition of Harrison has been perfect, she says.

“Avery is a great coach with a lot of experience. He knows the players and the league and has us on the right path.”

The Queens took a major step in that direction themselves during their trip to Lethbridge late in the first half of the season. After losing the opening game of the two-game set they had a two-hour team meeting. The next day they defeated the Kodiaks 70-50 and haven’t lost since.

“We got together and decided to we had to start playing as a team and play to have fun, something we kind of forgot about,” said Sandra. “We know we have the talent and when we work as a team it shows.

“One other thing was we set two big goals at the beginning of the season and that just didn’t work. We decided to forget about the goals, just concentrate on each game as it comes. It eliminates a lot of pressure.”

“The meeting was good for everyone concerned,” said Harrison. “It was strictly for the team … no coaches involved. In fact, I went back to the hotel.

“Since then you can see it in the team. I know when we returned from the Christmas break there was something different. You could see the swagger and confidence … it’s carried over.”“

Since then the Queens five won five games in a row and sit at 8-6. St. Mary’s is first at 10-3 with Lethbridge at 9-5 and SAIT at 8-5.

RDP faces SAIT in a home-and-home this weekend — Friday at 6 p.m. at the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre and Saturday at the U of C.

It’s a big weekend for the Kings as well as they also sit at 8-6 with SAIT at 7-6.

Lethbridge is 11-3, Medicine Hat 9-5 and St. Mary’s 8-5.

The volleyball quads also face SAIT in a home-and-home beginning Friday in Calgary.

It’s a big weekend for the Queens as they are tied for second with SAIT at 7-6. The Kings are 12-1 and SAIT at 4-9.

The hockey Kings (10-5-1) entertain Portage (3-13) Friday at 7 p.m. at Saturday at 1 p.m. while the hockey Queens (7-2-1-0) are at Olds (2-4-2-2) Thursday and entertain the Broncos Saturday at 7 p.m.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at