Top-ranked 2A girls' squad welcomes clashes against bigger schools in the name of on-court improvement
Meath Park's girls' basketball team held an intense practice Tuesday, part of preparations for a tournament this weekend that will - as usual - pit the team against larger schools. It's all part of preparations for the top-ranked 2A school to make a strong provincial championship bid. Herald photo by Vern Faulkner
Contrary to the exhortations of a famous football coach, winning is not the only thing.
In fact, the way Tom Hazzard, co-coach of Meath Park Mustangs girls' basketball team tells it, losing is - for his squad at least - a pretty darn good thing.
Then again, when a Meath Park School basketball team draws its players from a student body of 360 attending kindergarten to Grade 12, there's no shame in coming up short against St. Mary High School, the second-best team in the province in the 4A division and a squad drawn from 1,000 students in grades 9-12.
Hazzard actually seems to take a little pride in the loss column of the team's 9-5 record.
"Our five losses have been to bigger teams - St. Mary's, Humboldt, Moose Jaw Vanier ..." he recites. "Our losses have been - while never good - close losses to some very good basketball teams."
Playing against bigger, better teams forces the small-school squad to play at a higher tempo and more aggressive pace, he said, which in turn makes the Meath Park team better.
As evidence, Hazzard noted the Mustangs are the top-ranked 2A team in the province.
"Rarely do we play teams in our classification or lower, not because we don't want to, but because we want to get better."
When it comes to playing in their own pond, Meath Park is a pretty savage fish: the team has dumped No. 2-ranked Kinistino twice in 2A clashes this year, both with 20-point cushions.
Starting this week, Meath Park will play in three successive weekend tournaments elsewhere in the province, and the dance card already pits Meath Park against bigger, better schools.
But the investment is worth it, and Hazzard is confident that come playoffs, the Mustangs will reap the rewards of playing the big fish from the 4A pond.
"Playing those overtime games - you don't learn much from a basketball game if you win 72-20," he said.
"While it's sometimes fun to beat teams by 50 points, it does a lot more to play close, structured teams at a higher level."
This is the sixth year veteran Brittni Krip has played basketball at Meath Park School. The Grade 12 student said she values the experience gained from playing stronger teams.
"It's definitely a lot more exciting," she said. "We get better playing (against stronger opponents.)
"We've played a couple of tough upper-level teams, and we know we can play against them."
It's all about improvement.
"We always know we have to get better," she said, asserting that nobody will be overconfident once playoffs begin.