Wildcats ready to test mettle at Central-North tourney

Offence is often diminished behind a strong defence in the stakes of wins and losses.

But without the most points, you can’t get many of the former.

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The Burnaby Central Wildcats have shown in the early going of the senior girls basketball season that they know how to score.

Beginning league play with a 108-41 decision over Moscrop, the Wildcats have sent up a warning flag to opposing defences about what they bring to the table.

Co-coach Chris Ducharme is thrilled that his team – a split of Grade 12s and Grade 8 and 9s – has the components to push this season into spring.

“We have a lot of talent on this team. It’s probably the fastest team since I started at Central five years ago,” said Ducharme, who is working the sidelines with Peter Van den Hoogen. “We have a lot of speed and try to use that to our advantage, get down the court and put a lot of shots off and put up a lot of field goals.”

With players of diverse ages, building team chemistry is a huge goal as they head into the meat of the schedule – with the Burnaby Central-Burnaby North Senior Girls Showdown this week’s full-course meal.

The Wildcats open action today (Wednesday 3 p.m.) against Steveston-London at Burnaby Central.

“They’re young. A lot of our star players are young so we’re trying to build a ‘have our players back’ (approach),” said Ducharme. “Just be tough, be physical and help your teammates up if they fall down. Everyone has a partner – the senior girls have a junior as their rookie. They all have their handshakes now.”

It was that kind of ‘team-first’ approach that worked Monday, when the team was without two key starters and supplemented the roster with some call-ups yet didn’t skip a beat.

They improved to 3-0 in Burnaby-New West league play with a polished 62-32 triumph over the Alpha Aztecs, getting 22 points from Priya Dhaliwal and 12 from Jade Huynh.

Alpha’s Marta Ilic countered with a team-high 11 points, including back-to-back treys in the second quarter.

Already battle tested with a 3-1 run at the Dr. Charles Best tournament, where the only loss came to ranked Valleyview, the Wildcats are eager to soak up more quality tests.

This year’s Burnaby Central lineup’s chemistry does benefit from some family bonds – star point guard Jade Huynh may miss graduated older sister Jalynne, but can mentor younger sis Jaya. There are also the Dhaliwal sisters – multi-sport talent and nearly six-feet tall Priya, and Maneesha.

“With this talent and speed, we’re using a lot of man-to-man and just trying to teach them about positioning on the floor, watch where girls hands are and expose the weaknesses of the other team,” the coach noted. “A little more common sense, a little more chess and leading them into spots where they normally would go.”

Where they go from here is into the mix, hopefully, and grooming a possible provincial appearance.

They do have to survive league play, where rivals like Burnaby South – who gave the Wildcats a handful in a 75-69 victory two weeks ago – Burnaby North and a renewed New Westminster.

The Vikings, as co-hosts of this week’s tourney, will open on their own court today, 3 p.m. against pre-season 2-A No. 9-ranked Seycove.

The Rebels, meanwhile, take to the Wildcat court at 7:30 p.m. to face 3-A honourable mention Robert Bateman. The other two local participants in the tourney, No. 4 ranked St. Thomas More and unranked Burnaby Mountain, meet in today’s 4:30 p.m. tilt at Burnaby North.

Also in the tourney is Tsumura Basketball Invitational finalist and 2-A No. 3 Britannia, who meet Carson Graham 4:30 p.m. (at Central).

The quarterfinals start bright and early on Thursday, with games at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. at both sites If Central wins its opening game, they’d take to the court at 9 a.m. against the winner of Britannia-Carson Graham. Semifinals are slated for 4, at Central, and 5:45 p.m. at North.

The championship match hits the court 5:45 p.m. on Friday at Burnaby Central.

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