SYDNEY,NS–After attending the first Annual Cape Breton Friendship Games over the weekend, it seemed as if the games were anything but “friendly.”
These women competed and remained agressive on each other for every second of every game. There were players diving for loose balls, leading with elbows on hard drives and forearm shivers galore.
I should also mention that WNBA player Nicky Anosike (Washington Mystics) who is a physical specimen was playing for the Beijing Shougang Basketball Club. The University of Cape Breton put on an excellent event and I was thoroughly impressed by the immense amount of support the Capers and this tournament received from the University, the community and its fans. It is one of the best basketball environments/events I have been in.
To recap the weekend, on day pme, Beijing defeated McMaster 80-59 and Cape Breton defeated Thompson Rivers 71-53.
On day two, Beijing defeated Thompson Rivers 99-57 and Cape Breton defeated McMaster 80-56. This set up a matchup of winless teams and undefeated teams on Sunday with Thompson Rivers defeating McMaster 82-47 and Beijing defeating Cape Breton 93-73.
The McMaster Marauders were a team that played with no intensity defensively. They had good size and decent skill in the guard spots but seem to rely on individual skill to create offense, which did not work on this weekend. They did however show some spark in the third quarter against Cape Breton when they cut a 19 point lead to eight by mixing up defenses from man to zone. McMaster’s Record over the weekend was 0-3.
The Thompson Rivers Wolfpack looked like a solid team with good guard play and great size up front. However, the team really looked like they were still trying to put it together (despite this being their 9-10-11th games) as there seemed to be little flow and direction in what they did as a team on the floor. Jen Ju is a very good PG with an excellent scoring touch and centre Diane Schuetze is an potent offensive player who can score inside or out. What this team lacked was passion and direction defensively. Thompson Rivers Record on the weekend was 1-2.
The Cape Breton Capers were very impressive, I have been an avid follower of AUS women’s basketball for seven years and this might be the best Cape Breton team I have seen 1 through 12. This team is like the energizer bunny, it just keeps going and going…defensively, they are fierce with a capital F. They also attack the rim with an equal amount of ferocity as there is no settling for jump shots in Coach Mackenzie’s schemes. This team is loaded with solid players who lay it on the line. Newcomer Cassie Cooke whose style is the same as Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets has unbelievable speed, body control and strength and shoots it well to match. Transfer Vicki Thistle is in the perfect system for her and is going to put up big numbers in all statistical categories all year. The Capers are definitely the front runners for the AUS and will contend for a National Championship in March. Capers Record on the weekend was 2-1.
Beijing was very impressive as they had 10 players 6-0 or bigger. It was very exciting to see athletes at that size playing in the spots they did on the floor. Their sense of the game and skill level wowed me by the end of the weekend. It was great to see the women’s game being played at this level. Weekend Record 3-0.
The weekend was a huge success for the players and Cape Breton University. The Asian students at the school came out and supported the team from Beijing and really showed us Canadian fans how to show passion as a fan, as they were close to raising the roof off the place. I have been around the game of basketball as a player, ref and coach for 28 years and I want to say again how impressive the support was for the female game.
As I sat in the stands and listened to the fans talk about their “SUPERSTAR CAPERS” and watched the fans pile in for all their games, I truly understand why Cape Breton has one of the best basketball programs in the country, because everyone cares and everyone works to make it that. I have not witnessed this level of support for the women’s game anywhere else.
My hat is off to Cape Breton University.