It took a while, but the Maples Marauders varsity boys basketball team is starting to find its game.
Coach Scott Kirkpatrick said his rather inexperienced squad, which contains only four players with previous varsity experience, struggled at the season’s start but has picked it up since the Christmas break.
The team is currently tied for first in KPAC (Kilcona Peguis Athletic Conference), and is starting to fare better in tournaments and against Tier 1 teams, including a recent close game against the No. 1-ranked Oak Park Raiders.
"The more games we play and the more practice time we have, I find the inexperienced kids are really starting to pick up the focus, intensity and the competiveness they need to compete," Kirkpatrick said.
"That’s been the biggest difference, maturity. They’re becoming more mature."
Kirkpatrick said a few of the fresh faces on the Marauders needed to "fall face first" to become more open to coaching and doing what it takes to be successful.
"The kids are settling into their roles," said Kirkpatrick, 37, who has coached at different levels for 19 years, including five with Maples.
"Whether they are starting or coming off the bench, everybody is accepting their role and starting to embrace it, whereas before Christmas a lot were still trying to figure out what role they were going to have."
Kirkpatrick said his team leaders are Harsimran Assi, Jaired Garing and Matthew Dunning, although Dunning recently rolled his ankle and will be out a couple weeks, so he’ll have to lead from the bench.
"The biggest thing is I try to keep everybody on the same page," said Dunning, 17, a Grade 12 student. "If someone makes a mistake, I try to bring the guys together to bring that player back up so we can get focused on the next play."
Dunning is leading the team offensively, but Kirkpatrick said he’s also the Marauders best defensive player.
"I just do what I have to do to win. If that means scoring more one game and focusing more on defence another game, then that’s what I do," Dunning said.
"I try to take it one game at a time, and figure out what I have to do in that game that will give us the best possible outcome."
Before the KPAC playoffs begin in March, the Marauders have a couple of tournaments, including its own home tournament, the Marauders Classic, which runs Feb. 20 to 22 at Maples Collegiate. The tournament will be broadcasted online on Channel 7 Oaks at www.channel7oaks.org.
"I think in the Oak Park tournament (Feb. 13 to 15) and our tournament, we can make a statement and show the other teams that we’re not the same team from the start of the season," Dunning said.
"I think we’re definitely one of the most improved teams."
To keep up to date on the Marauders, go to www.mhsaa.ca