Aiming high

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Crone and Epoch want medals at hoops nationals

Macaela Crone wants to top last year's experience at the Basketball Canada 15U Women's National Championship.

 

That won't be easy.

Crone was a first-team tournament all-star as she and the Saskatchewan 15-and-under women's team finished fourth — one of their best finishes ever at the national tournament.

"We did awesome last year and hopefully we can do better this year," said Crone from Warman where this year's 15U provincial team is preparing for nationals, which begin this weekend in Edmonton. "Last year was an eye-opener for everyone in Saskatchewan. We know that we could compete with the bigger provinces like Ontario and Quebec. This year, this team, we know we can compete against them.

"It's going to be a good year, I think. I'm really confident in our team this year."

While this year's 15U team is using last year as motivation, this year's 17U provincial team is using it as inspiration.

Crone's Peacock teammate Libby Epoch is the co-captain of the 17U Saskatchewan team and they want to crack the top-four themselves after finishing sixth at nationals a year ago.

"I really want to be in the top four and I definitely want to get a medal. I think that's achievable," said Epoch who was in Saskatoon where the 17Us were finishing their training camp. 

The 17U women's nationals will also be played in Edmonton this week along with the 15U and 17U men's tournaments.

For Crone, this is her third time attending a 15U nationals. After having a break-out performance at the tournament which helped earned her an invite to Basketball Canada's national age group assessment camp over the holidays.

"There's not pressure on me. I'm just thinking that I had a good year last year, so let's have a better year this year," Crone said of her approach to this year's national tournament. "I think I'm going to go into the tournament pretty confident and our team is confident right now. I'm very confident in our team and how we're playing right now."

The 15Us have five returning players and will have a much tougher start to the tournament this time around. They open with Ontario in a pool that features the top four teams from last year's tournament.

Crone is primarily playing on the wing, but also seen some time as a post. "I enjoy the wing a lot, but I help in the paint and wherever they need me, I'll go," she said.

Both teams have had a busy summer preparing for the tournament in Edmonton since the teams were chosen in April.

The 17U team played the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Tuesday and are feeling confident heading to Edmonton.

"I think we're really prepared and our coaches have done a great job," said Epoch, a point guard, who is the second-youngest player on the team.

Saskatchewan's 17U team has already played the three teams from the other western provinces as well as Newfoundland. They beat Alberta and Newfoundland in a four-team tournament in Manitoba in early July. They lost their pool game to the hosts, but then beat them in the final to win the tournament. They also posted a 2-4 record against American club teams in Seattle and then lost to B.C. on the way back home.

"We know some of the teams which should help us," said Epoch who noted that their experience against some strong American competition should also help their preparation. "It's different (in the U.S.). Their defence is a lot stronger and they press a lot. And they're all very good shooters too. It was good experience and we know we have to work on our offence."

Saskatchewan's 17U team is in a preliminary pool with Newfoundland and New Brunswick, they will have to win that pool to then crossover against one of last year's top-four finishers.

"We need to win our pool, so those first two games are important. Then we'll play a team from the top-four — which will probably be B.C. or Manitoba —  and we really need to win that game to get us into the top-four," said Epoch.

The Peacock duo aren't the only area basketball players who made a provincial team. 

Moose Jaw's Katherine McDougall made the under-15 girls developmental team and Riley Herridge made the under-15 boys developmental team. 

Assiniboia's Alexa Wandler made the under-16 girls provincial team as well.

Organizations: University of Saskatchewan Huskies

Geographic location: Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Ontario Warman Quebec Newfoundland Saskatoon Manitoba Alberta Seattle U.S. New Brunswick Moose Jaw

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