No one could accuse the members of Thompson's JRB 14-and-under girls' basketball team of not listening to their coach, Kristin Donovan.
"There's stuff that we could improve on like boxing out when the shot goes up and when the other team is pressing us not to pass to people who are covered," said team member Blair Bodie, 13, after squad took spot at a recent tournament in Winnipeg.
"I was very proud of myself when I boxed out and I had a lot of fun and I was really happy when we got first place and got our medal," said Dunni Shutti, 12.
"I learned to box out and not make Donovan mad or she'll kill me," reflected Brianna Bourguignon.
"I think I did OK," said Kaitlinn Janes, assessing her own performance. "I boxed out. I think I should have made more of my shots."
"We were good and we cooperated as a team, shooting and boxing out, I guess," says Victoria Hollett.
So, how often does Donovan remind her players to box out?
"All the time," says Aislyn Carlson. "Every day at practice. Box out, box out."
But it's one thing to remember what your coaches tell you to do - the key to success is executing, which the players did, according to Donovan, after dropping their opening game of the tournament to the Magic, the same team they faced in the final, widely touted as one of the best teams in the city.
"We were ahead in the first half and did terrible in the second half," said Donovan, recalling the first time the two teams met at the tournament. "We kind of lost it, they started pressuring us and they just kind let it get to them."
Shortly before they met in the final, the coaching staff laid out three keys the JRB team would need to follow to have success. From then on, it was all the players.
"They went out, they broke their press, they made their lay-ups, they played defence and, yeah, they took the game pretty handily," Donovan says. " I think the highlight as coaches was that we gave them something to do and they just rose to the challenge and they said, 'All right we're going to do it,' and they ended up beating the team that they lost to that was pretty pumped about beating them at the beginning."
The victory was even sweeter because it represented the end of a long process for the 14U players, many of whom faced the same team in their first game together three seasons ago, when they lost 60-2.
"It was pretty solid," says Kali Cummings, 13, who was part of that loss. "In the final I thought we did pretty good. We were ahead pretty much the whole game. I think we've improved greatly from the last few years we've had this program going."
Caitlin Fennell, another three-year veteran of the JRB program, says the difference between now and previous years i the attitude with which the players approach the game.
"This year we've gotten slightly more intense, like a lot more intense than previous years," Fennell said. "We've gotten a lot better because I remember our very first game, our very first tournament we lost 60-2 and now we're winning them."
With three losses in three previous meetings, Adrianna Proulx says it was satisfying to finally get over that hump.
"This is the first time we won against them," she said. "It was good. We were very excited that we could beat them - they were known as the best team in Winnipeg so it felt pretty good that we could beat them coming from up north. It was very fun."
Zoe O'Callaghan, in her third year as part of JRB, says she was confident throughout the contest that she and her teammates could finally take that great leap forward.
"I knew we would win," she says.
Kimberly Markus just joined the program this season but that didn't make the win any less enjoyable.
"It was exciting and a lot of smiles and a lot of cheering from the bench," she says. "Whenever you got the ball a bunch of them came on you right away. They kind of like surrounded you. We did very well."
Donovan and her fellow coaches weren't surprised by their team's performance, as they measure their players against high expectations, but she applauded them for their effort, something she says other players and coaches notice.
"They work really hard, they work very, very hard for girls at their level and people say all the time they can't believe that they're Grade 7 and 8 basketball players but it shows the determination that there is in the north," Donovan says. "Those teams that we play get a game or two a week and we've had five games all year. To go out and actually compete like that was awesome. because they get very little game-time situations. They rise to the challenge. You put something in front of them and they don't back down and I think that's hard for girls from the north to do because it's intimidating going down and having parents screaming at you and stands full where you don't have a lot of fans or friends to support you. They never back down. They go down and play girls who are giant compared to them. They make every day worth coming to practice for sure."
For Bourguignon, the difference in outcomes didn't mean there weren't similarities between the first time the Thompson girls played the Magic and the most recent game when they finally got the win.
"I was happy we beat Magic because the first year we played them I almost had a heart attack and then we got gold, I was really happy and then I almost had a heart attack again," she said.