CAMBRIDGE, NS - Putting the Gators jersey back on last week meant the world to Central Kings graduate Jennie Laffin.
On Dec. 19, current girls’ basketball players on the CK team faced off against alumni in a special Alumni Gators game. Holding an alumni game has long been a dream for Laffin.
“It’s really special to me, I’ve been trying to get a Alumni Gators game going since I was in Grade 10, so to get it all together really means a lot,” Laffin said. “I’m actually wearing my old number, #17, so it’s kind of heartwarming to get back on the court with some of the girls I played with.”
Laffin, who is studying cardiology technology at university in British Columbia, is no longer playing basketball, making this game mean even more.
“Unfortunately, my basketball career ended in high school,” she said with a chuckle.
Ruth Hall, a current member of the team, was also excited to take to the court against the alumni.
“I’m really excited, I played with these girls for about three years, so it’s nice to get back and play with them,” she said, adding that she was hoping she remembered some of their tricks.
“We’re hoping to have some fun and get back in the gym against some girls I haven’t seen in a while. This is my fourth year on the team and I came up with these girls, and they taught me. I’m looking forward to playing them.”
The Central Kings team this year is very young, she said, but is doing well overall.
Assistant coach Scott Pope, who is behind the bench of this year’s team, said the team hasn’t played any regular season games yet but has done well in exhibition play.
“Right now we’ve won every one of our exhibition games,” Pope said. “We didn’t have the success we thought we’d have in our Gator Classic tournament, but it was good learning experience. We played a really strong Millwood team twice in one day. Playing against a team like that is good experience for these girls because they’re the kind of team we’re going to face on a regular basis, especially when it’s time to go to regionals and provincials.”
And that’s the goal, he added.
“Definitely regionals, and I think we’ve got a good shot at provincials after that,” he said. “It should be a fun ride.”
With only three Grade 12 students on the bench, the team may be short on experience, but they have plenty of enthusiasm and skill in the Grade 9 and 11 players who are on the team.
“There are no Grade 10s at all, but the Grade 9 players are putting in their time, they’re getting a lot of playing time and they’re growing their skills,” Pope said. “Exhibition games are great for that because it gets them in there, gets them used to the plays the head coach, Dennis Humphries, wants them to get in, and they’re really learning how to move with the ball and without the ball, playing offence and defence.”
With eight regular season games coming up in 2018, Pope is hopeful the success the Gators are seeing early on will continue.
“We’re scheduled to go to three tournaments in January – back to back to back – and we’re hoping to get a lot of good competition there,” he said. “The new year comes in and we’re flying out from the get-go.”
Pope, who is in his first year of coaching in Central Kings, is no stranger to the basketball community in Kings County. He’s watched many of the players develop and he’s looking forward to seeing how they gel on the court together this year.
He was also thrilled to watch the alumni and current players on the court.
“I think everyone was looking forward to this, both the current team and the returning girls. They know it’s a nice little break for them, they’re coming back from their college or universities and this is a night out to get on the court and playing some basketball. Everyone is laughing and cheering and having a good time,” he said.
The game saw some sibling rivalries, with alumni players, like Laffin, face off against her younger sister Morgan.
“It’s a good experience for them,” Pope added. “As you look out on the court, they’re all smiling and having fun.”