February's athletes of the month from R.D. Parker Collegiate know where their high school basketball careers are going to end, but how they go out is up to them and their teammates.
Grade 12 students Janaye Tucker-Titanich and Matt Gillis are the male and female athletes of the month and both hope to lead their teams to victory when the Trojans host the AAA basketball provincials starting tomorrow.
"It's good to have it in our home gym," Tucker-Titanich says of the provincials. "It's always better when you have a lot of support coming from the crowd because the atmosphere's just way easier to play in than when you're in an opposing team's gym. That'll really help us. We're used to practising in here and shooting on these nets and stuff. I think we're pretty confident. Obviously we're nervous, it's a really big tournament but I think we've improved enough so that we have a really good chance of winning first."
Key to that goal is starting off strong, as teams who lose their opening games lose any chance of playing for the title.
"There's a lot of pressure that first game," Tucker-Titanich says. "Hopefully we'll play well and be able to move on."
The varsity girls’ team didn't take any shortcuts to get to the provincials, knocking off Hapnot Collegiate Institute of Flin Flon at the zone 11 playoffs in Flin Flon on March 2-3.
"It was a close game," says Tucker-Titanich. "We won by 11. They were good competition. We came first in our zone so we made provincials even though we would have automatically made it but it's always nice to win your zone, I guess."
Gillis's team wasn't as successful, dropping the final to Hapnot, giving a second team from the North a berth at provincials.
"Zones was last weekend and we lost to Flin Flon but since we're hosting we still get to play," said Gillis. "Flin Flon beat us pretty handily in the zones because they had their home court advantage."
In the big picture, though, that doesn't mean much, since the Trojans beat Hapnot twice at the pre-zone tournament in their own gym in January.
"We proved we can both play and beat each other," says Gillis.
Despite the loss to Flin Flon, Gillis remains confident in his team's ability to do well on the provincial stage.
"We've got the home court advantage and I think if we come out strong and play our game we have a good shot at competing with all the other teams from the south," he said.
The girls' team has performed consistently lately, says Tucker-Titanich, placing in every tournament they played in February. Her performance during those tournaments was probably a deciding factor in being named an athlete of the month.
"I know I got some pretty high scoring games," she says. "I got one game with 29 points and 14 rebounds."
That was a big change from earlier in the season, when she says her performances were not up to par.
"I had a rough start. I had a couple pretty bad tournaments but now I think I've got to the level where I can be an asset to the team every game."
The team itself went through some growing pains as well.
"At the beginning, it was a little rough," Tucker-Titanich says. "We have lots of younger players so it was harder for them just to keep up to the senior level because it's a really fast level of play but comparing the beginning of the season to now there's been a huge improvement. Everyone coming up off the bench, like they've caught up and learned everything, well almost everything. They've improved a lot. We've come together as a team. We work better now together."
Missing some game time with an injury also gave Tucker-Titanich some insight into how she can make her team successful.
"One of the roles I find myself having on the team is getting them started to drive to the basket," she says. "What I noticed was, when I rolled my ankle in the Sanford tournament, going over the tapes, watching the videos again, we noticed that nobody had started driving and stuff. I think I have a pretty big role on the team just to do that. Otherwise it's just kind of a shooting game and nobody works it in in the key."
Gillis knows his way to the hoop, too.
"I've probably been averaging like 25 points a game, 12 rebounds or something like that," he says. "I'm a big scorer."
Beyond that, he's also a role model for teammates.
"A lot of the younger guys look up to us Grade 12s so you've got to be a leader and set an example," says Gillis. "If they're not doing something on the court you've got to go out there and do it so they can know and they can follow you and do that."