Sports High School Sports

St. Peter’s senior girls basketball players bring their on-pitch soccer chemistry to hardwood in Barrie

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

On her way to the net, Emily Cooke of the St. Peter’s Panthers is fouled by Natalia Rabeiga of the St. Thomas Aquinas Stingers during senior girls basketball action on Thursday at St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School in Barrie. The Stingers took the win, 34-32. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

On her way to the net, Emily Cooke of the St. Peter’s Panthers is fouled by Natalia Rabeiga of the St. Thomas Aquinas Stingers during senior girls basketball action on Thursday at St. Peter's Catholic Secondary School in Barrie. The Stingers took the win, 34-32. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

The St. Peter’s Panthers have spent a lot of time playing together.

Most of that time, though, has been on the pitch.

A group of talented athletes, predominantly soccer players, has made up the core of the senior girls basketball team.

“This is definitely a soccer team,” said St. Peter’s guard Emily Cooke. “Most of our players are soccer players, and that’s where our speed comes from, as well as our soccer throws down the court.

“That’s Panthers basketball.”

The athletic play from St. Peter’s was almost enough on Thursday, but it fell just short, and the Panthers lost, 34-32, to the St. Thomas Aquinas Stingers.

“We were up in the third quarter by a bit and competed a lot, so it made it tough, because we knew we had the capability of beating that team and we competed well with them,” said Panthers veteran Rebecca Cano. “I think we’ll see them later in the season, so it’ll be a good game there, too.”

St. Peter’s has no rep basketball players on their team, so it relies on the ability of its girls from other sports to bring their skills together.

“We just depend on our athleticism, because we all play soccer,” Cano said. “We know how sports go, and the cutting, speed and how to read plays comes from soccer, too, so we just apply that here.”

The Panthers caused havoc early on for St. Thomas Aquinas, forcing a lot of turnovers and working things quickly back the other way.

“We outrun a lot of teams with our speed, and we move the ball really fast,” Cooke said. “Soccer players can anticipate a lot, so we can tell where the ball is going, and that gives us a lot of advantages.”

St. Peter’s created chance after chance at the Stingers bucket.

Unfortunately, shooting in basketball is a lot different from soccer.

“We sometimes like to do a lot of soccer throw-ins while we’re shooting, or passing,” said Cano of her team, which went over a quarter without scoring in the first half. “We’ve really been working on our form this year. Our form for shooting, when we started in Grade 9, wasn’t very good.

“But we’ve worked on that and really improved,” Cano added. “We’re building our weaknesses into strengths.”

Undaunted, the Panthers continued to press St. Thomas Aquinas and, eventually, those turnovers led to a 13-3 run, as St. Peter’s turned the third quarter into a fast-paced contest.

“Endurance is another advantage, too, for our team,” Cano said. “We may not be as basketball talented, but when we play those teams with a bunch of rep players, we bring out that stuff, the endurance and stamina from our other sports, and that puts us ahead sometimes.”

The Panthers, again using soccer-style throw-ins as their main passing weapon, worked the ball around with ease, as the many years on the pitch together has translated over to the basketball court.

“Since we’ve all played with each other for so long, we know how each other plays,” Cano said. “Ally Morris and Rebecca Pearce, they know each other like the back of their hand. They know each other’s moves and what the other is going to do.

“It gives us an advantage because we know each other so well.”

But in the fourth quarter, the shooting troubles would re-emerge, with the Panthers unable to score a basket for the final 6:49 of the game.

That allowed St. Thomas Aquinas to come back and win.

“Under pressure, it’s hard,” Cooke said. “We practice shooting a lot, but under pressure, it’s tough.

“Once we get the form down, we should be able to shoot and eventually, baskets will start falling.”

A competitive group, the Panthers remain undaunted as they look to put everything together to complete the transition to the court.

“We’ve been winning games and improving every week,” Cooke said. “Once our baskets start falling, we’re a fast, quick team and we should be getting better.”

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