The Comeback Kid

John Browne
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Adversity has helped Brittany Dalton mature as a person as she continues to work on becoming a better player

Personal loss and setbacks are a part of life, and Memorial Sea-Hawks basketball sophomore Brittany Dalton has her share of both the past few years.

Injury and academic problems kept her off the court for 18 months and the recent death of her grandmother put a lot of things in perspective.

Brittany Dalton - Joe Gibbons photo/The Telegram

Personal loss and setbacks are a part of life, and Memorial Sea-Hawks basketball sophomore Brittany Dalton has her share of both the past few years.

Injury and academic problems kept her off the court for 18 months and the recent death of her grandmother put a lot of things in perspective.

Dalton's grandmother, Elizabeth Dalton, died Jan. 26. It wasn't unexpected, but nevertheless it was tough for Brittany and her older sister, Meghan, to keep playing with some sort of focus for the Lady Hawks.

"We were very close," said Brittany. "Her house was a second home for us."

Dalton had her Atlantic Universities Sport (AUS) breakout game the weekend before her grandmother passed away.

The former Roncalli Cardinals high school star from Harbour Main scored 16 points and tied a team record with 18 rebounds in a win against the Varsity Reds in New Brunswick.

She said her grandmother was, "pretty much on her death bed then and Meghan and myself were not sure if we could go, and even if we did, we'd probably be useless anyway.

"But then she came around at the point we were going to make our decision. She sat up for the first time in days and said, 'Go on, go on,' so we figured we couldn't go against her wishes," said Dalton.

"Meghan had a good game in the opener, but it was a bit rough for myself and all I wanted to do Sunday was to play and get home as soon as possible."

The funeral was two days before the Sea-Hawks played at home against UPEI Panthers.

Brittany and her sister, finding an inner strength, found a way to compete even as they mourned.

Meghan scored 16 points in the series opener against the Panthers and Brittany had 12 points and seven steals in the second game of the series.

"I was out of it that Saturday night," said Brittany.

"After all week at the funeral home, it was kind of hard to have the energy to play. But it was good to be around the girls who tried to keep up our spirits and keep things light."

Brittany said a lot of her family and friends were at that Sunday game, so she just went out and did what she could under the circumstances.

"Doug (coach Doug Partridge) was really good about it too, knowing that Meghan and myself were a little bit upset. He didn't get on us too much," she said with a laugh.

Partridge said after the second game of UPEI series the two Dalton girls performed remarkably well given the situation.

"You really have to tip your hat to Moose (Meghan) for her performance Saturday and to Bree (Brittany) for pulling herself back together and playing as well as she played in the first half Sunday when the game was being decided," he said.

Dalton got off to a slow start this season, which is understandable since she hadn't played at the AUS level in almost two years.

In her rookie campaign, she tore the ACL in her her right knee in a game against Dalhousie Tigers Jan. 13, 2007 at the Field House. It was the same knee on which she had arthroscopic surgery in high school and it meant the end to her season.

While she was off, she took some time completely away from the game to get her head, "out of the whole being let down thing.

"I actually enjoyed myself by doing the whole student thing ... studying without having to worry about basketball and a time schedule, but that gets pretty boring after a while so I was pretty happy to get back at basketball," she said.

The further setback of being ruled ineligible for MUN still couldn't keep Dalton down. Working out with Peter Benoite - the former Sea-Hawk star who is now head coach of Memorial's men's basketball team - just about every day of the week kept her in shape.

"That was a big help to me to be able to get out instead of sitting at home," said Dalton, who still works out with Benoite once or twice a week during the season.

These days, Dalton said her knee isn't giving her any trouble and, overall, she's as healthy as she's every been.

Since Christmas, she is showing signs of becoming the player many expected she'd be after her outstanding high school career at Roncalli.

"Once I got my confidence in my game back, I was OK," she said.

Although to hear Dalton critique her current skills, you'd wonder how she ever made the team.

"I still have a long way to go in terms of where I hope to be," she said.

"I'd definitely like to be a better ball handler. Sometimes I'm just completely lost with the ball.

"Once Doug said I'd be playing a bit of the No. 1 (point guard), I was extremely nervous with the ball, knowing that I was going to have to handle it that much.

"And," she added, "shooting is a weak spot with me right now. I'm not too worried about driving or running the floor. Shooting and ball handling are my big focus. I'll probably have a long summer in the gym."

Dalton said she worked on her defence over the past year when she wasn't playing.

"I have a tendency to get frustrated with my defence and Doug sort of has to haul me in."

Having said all that, she's enjoying her second year with the Lady Hawks.

"This is a completely different team in one way," Dalton noted. "Last year's team was completely basketball orientated, while this year's team is more social. We're all buddies and while going to the gym is a good part of our social life, we also hang out together after the games. It's a really close knit team."

And based on the team's 14-2 record, it's just as good as last year's team that won the AUS championship.

"I expect us to defend our championship," said Dalton, "and it would be a big letdown if we didn't do well at the CIs (national championship)."

Dalton has already overcome a lot to emerge as one of the brightest young players in the Atlantic universities conference.

Her personal statistics are impressive. Although she is second in conference steals with 48, sixth in conference assists with 59 (3.7 apg. avg.), seventh in blocked shots with 12 and 10th in the conference in rebounding (5.4 rpg), she said she doesn't pay much attention to her stats.

"I didn't know I'd tied the (rebounds) record until I came home and someone mentioned it to me," she said.

Basically, she's just happy to be playing again.

"I definitely feel like I'm back and I'm having fun," said Dalton.

Sometimes the harsh realities of life invade an amateur athlete's existence and coming to terms with the fact tests a person's character like no game ever could.

How Brittany Dalton has played through adversity so far in her young life tells you a lot more than any basketball stat you care to quote.

Organizations: Atlantic Universities Sport, Sea-Hawks, Panthers Field House CIs

Geographic location: New Brunswick

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