SURREY — Maryn Budiman came to school on Monday at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School wearing her figurative hard hat, armed with the understanding that boot camp had officially begun.
Eight bad minutes of basketball at precisely the wrong time can turn your world upside down, strip you of equilibrium, and in the end, sink your stock from provincial favourite to underdog.
And so now, nine days before the opening tip of the 2017 B.C. senior girls championship tournament, the job description of one of the province’s most dynamic players has been slightly amended.
The Panthers still need her 30-point-plus scoring average, but even more, they need her senior leadership.
“We know what we can do, because we’ve done it before,” Budiman said Saturday, after her No. 1-seeded team weathered an unexpected storm and scrambled to salvage a fifth-place finish at the Fraser Valley Triple-A championships in Langley. “But this week we’re going to have work hard to get back to that spot as a team.”
Last Wednesday, in the second round of the Valley tournament, in a game being played on their own home court, Lord Tweedsmuir took a 23-point lead into the fourth quarter yet somehow lost 85-83 to the No. 8-seeded Abbotsford Panthers.
The ripple effect was huge.
The Panthers had to win their next three games or face the prospect, as unlikely as it might seem for a team ranked No. 2 in the last provincial poll, of playing in one of the tier’s three sudden-elimination wildcard games, all scheduled for Tuesday.
They beat MEI 73-59, they barely survived before topping Riverside 83-82, and then they finished the tournament Saturday looking more like their usual vintage in a 90-65 win over Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks.
“We played eight minutes of bad basketball and it changed our path,” admitted Tweedsmuir head coach Curtis McRae, whose wrench-throwing team will likely face one of the B.C. tourney’s top four-seeded teams on the second day of the four-day event, providing it wins its opening-round game.
“We talked to the girls about how you can go one of two ways when you face adversity. You can fold, or you can come together as a team and go out and get what’s yours. I am proud that we faced some adversity and we came together. And Maryn, she’s our leader.”
TOPS AT TEMPO
In its win Saturday over Heritage Woods, Budiman was her usual, force-of-nature self, scoring 41 points.
Earlier this season, she scored 42 points in a loss to Brookswood, and in its loss last week to Abbotsford, she also scored 41 points.
They come off drives, off pull-ups, from beyond the arc, and especially, on her trademark coast-to-coast drives where her level of acceleration coupled with split-second decision-making and amazing ball-control put her skill package on the very top shelf.
“She is, I would bet, the fastest player in the province,” begins McRae. “She can dribble on the run faster than most girls can run. It’s unreal to be under control when you’re under pressure and to go faster than most girls can go on a dead sprint.”
Ask Budiman about it, and the grand-daughter of Langara College coaching legend Dunc McCallum, will tell you that her speedometre isn’t climbing much higher than it was last season.
“It’s similar,” says Budiman. “Maybe it’s faster. But it’s a controlled faster. And it was hard for me to learn that. (But) when you have speed and you have control, you don’t just get fouled, you get to make it an and-one (opportunity). Last season, if I got a little bit of contact, I would miss the shot. I have worked on finishing with contact.”
It’s safe to assume there will be a lot of just that in Tweedsmuir’s practices this week, and Budiman knows what that tempo will be all about, because earlier this season, when a lull hit in January, she and fellow senior Jess Vidovic decided they needed to take the team’s ownership by the figurative scruff of its neck.
“I went to coach and told him that there was so much more that we could be,” Budiman remembers. “Jess (Vidovic) and I talked about it for over 45 minutes and we told (McRae) ‘You have to make practices even harder’ and ‘You can be harder on us.’”
It spiked the Panthers play, and after losing to rival Brookswood four straight times, they beat them on the fifth try and gained the Fraser Valley’s No. 1 seed.
“Maryn and Jess came to us as coaches, and to their credit we changed the model of how we go about our business,” McRae remembers. “We got away from it from a bit, so starting Monday it will be five intense days of practice. We will work them, and we’ll really get after it.”
‘GIGANTIC’ JOURNIES AHEAD
Watch Budiman on the court and there is such a level of seamless flow to her play that it almost looks effortless.
That, of course, based on the countless hours she spends in the gym, is not the case.
“It’s weird but everyone was always telling me to play basketball,” says Budiman, who resisted the temptation in her pre-high school days, preferring instead to take a multi-sport approach to her athletic life.
“I started playing later (Grade 8), and when I did, I fell in love with it.”
Natural gifts, like her speed and athleticism, have helped. And now, as a package, it will carry her to a next-level career in the NCAA when she joins the program at Cal Baptist, which next season plays its final campaign at Div. 2 before transitioning to Div. 1 for the 2018-19 campaign.”
“I wanted to find a place where I could have an impact on the program,” she says, “and being able to play with them as they go into Div. 1, it’s like being on a team that is going on a gigantic journey.”
That is precisely the size of the one the Panthers are about to embark on.
Can they exceed last season’s maiden journey which included a run to the event’s Final Four Friday at the Langley Events Centre?
And can they use the next nine days to re-disocver themselves?
Budiman, Vidovic and fellow seniors Brianne Boufford and Shania Mander have a tiny window of time to right the ship and get it back on its proper course.
“We’ve taken that loss as energy and motivation,” Budiman says of the late collapse to Abbotsford. “We know what’s coming (at provincials) and we have to use our adversity as an advantage. We’re not satisfied with anything.”
As boot camp begins, the scorer needs to be a leader more than ever and Maryn Budiman seems up for the task.
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