The Foothills Falcons have a new look, but the goal is the same.
Get back to the 4A girls basketball provincial tournament and contend with the best in the province.
“The difference this year is we are going to be stronger on the inside where as last year we relied heavily on our shooters and what we had on the outside,” said Falcons coach Vince Hunter.
The height on the inside comes from returning forwards Alli Taylor and Cevanna Carlson.
Also crashing the boards is returning senior Claire Shirakawa.
“Claire might not be six-feet-tall, but she plays like she is six-feet-tall,” Hunter said.
The Falcons got tuned up for the 2017-18 season by winning the West Central Rebels tourney in Rocky Mountain House on Nov. 25.
They downed the Hunting Hills Lightning 77-38 in the final, with Brooklynn Baker pumping in 29 points. Guard Georgia Edey was named a tournament all-star.
The strong-play of Baker, Edey and Erica Holden at the guard position was welcomed news, as the trio will help replace the loss of Hannah Helton and Jaiden Hansen, who are both plying their trade with the SAIT Trojans.
The Falcons also lost to graduation forward Chayle Clark, who is playing for Calgary’s St. Mary’s University Lightning.
But graduating and replacing good players is a way of life in high school hoops.
“We have talked a lot about this is the 2017-18 team — we are not going to compare ourselves to last year’s team,” Hunter said. “Those were big losses for sure.
“But there is a cohesiveness amongst this group and we have talked about our identity a lot.”
That identity is a physical up-tempo team.
“We are not scared to go to the hole hard and we have those big players (Taylor, Carlson and Shirakawa) who I think are fantastic.”
The Falcons also have plenty of new talent.
“Chloe Hunter is a shooter and we have faith in her as a deep threat,” the coach said. “Erica Holden can hit threes, she’s a very good shooter.”
Baker has also worked on her three-point shooting over the summer, providing more offence to go along with her tenacious defence.
There are also some new players taking wing at the senior level.
“We’ve been amazed by Hallie Dunham who has already been a decent playmaker for us and her defence has been outstanding.”
Grade 11 standout Jazmyn Kellogg will provide speed for the Falcons.
Maddy Wood will help relieve the post players when needed.
“She was a lot tougher in Rocky Mountain House than we thought she would be for such a young kid,” Hunter said of the Grade 10 student.
The second-year senior girls coach is optimistic the Falcons can return to the provincials.
“The only thing we will be missing is that three-point shot from Hanna and Jaiden, but I feel there are other areas of our game that will carry us at least as far as we went last year,” Hunter said.
The Falcons, who have opted out of the Foothills Athletic Council again this season to play more tournaments, will have a rare home game before Christmas when they play a home-and-home series against cross-town rivals the Holy Trinity Academy Knights.
The Falcons host HTA on Dec. 20, prior to the Knights returning the favour on Dec. 21.
The Foothills Falcons made the most of the District 4 Tournament in Calgary after losing their opening game to a tournament finalist.
Foothills went on to win the consolation final by beating their future 4A South Central foe the Chestermere Lakers 67-59 Saturday night. However, it was the Falcons 57-56 loss to the Western Canada Redhawks in the tournament opener on Friday night that might have been Foothills’ shining moment in the tourney.
The Redhawks finished second in the 4A provincials last season.
Western Canada went on to finish fourth in the D4 classic, losing to LCI in the bronze medal game.
Foothills had advanced to the D4 consolation final by downing Cranbrook’s Mount Baker Wild 71-49 in the semifinals.
Baker, Taylor and Teah Simard led the Falcons in scoring. Baker was named a tournament all-star.
The Falcons next tournament is this weekend at Cardston, the opening match versus the LCI Rams.