For Thistle, good things come in threes

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John Browne
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Sea-Hawks' top scorer added the long bomb to her arsenal this season

Vicki Thistle has some long-range plans for the Memorial Sea-Hawks women's basketball team.

Slowly but surely, the third-year wing is developing a three-point shot to go with a driving net attack that often finishes with a circus-like toss-up basket.

The combination of scoring power, from near and far, propelled the St. John's native to third place in Atlantic Universities Sport (AUS) conference scoring this season and helped MUN finish second in the standings.

A different spin on things: Vicki Thistle didn't sink a single three-point shots in her first two years with the Memorial Sea-Hawks, but had 10 treys this season. Telegram file photo

Vicki Thistle has some long-range plans for the Memorial Sea-Hawks women's basketball team.

Slowly but surely, the third-year wing is developing a three-point shot to go with a driving net attack that often finishes with a circus-like toss-up basket.

The combination of scoring power, from near and far, propelled the St. John's native to third place in Atlantic Universities Sport (AUS) conference scoring this season and helped MUN finish second in the standings.

Thistle began the 2008-09 campaign with a bang, scoring 41 points in a triple overtime pre-season loss to the University of Toronto, and finished with a 16.3 points-per-game average, up from 12.1 ppg. last year and far ahead of her 9.2 ppg. average in her rookie campaign.

"I finally got the confidence I could shoot about halfway through the season," Thistle said. "I've shot the ball better this year. I started shooting the three and stuff and I'm more confident."

Statistics back her up.

Thistle, who didn't sink a single three-pointer in her first two years with the Sea-Hawks, made 10 treys this season.

"Hopefully, I'll be shooting more threes," she said.

"I'll get in the gym and work on a few more things in my game so that I'll have more options."

Asked to assess her overall play this year, Thistle said, "It's been good a times, and there were games I didn't think I played very well, but I'm also very hard on myself, so there's always ways to improve."

MUN coach Doug Partridge agrees.

"She has become a much better shooter and is playing regularly out on the wing," he said. "We think she may be our two-guard by the end of next year. Athletically and physically, it's what we were hoping she could become."

Thistle, named a first-team AUS all-star this week, is proud of the way her young team responded this season.

"All the rookies coming in knew they had to step up because we lost so many players. Doug said if we played good defence, we still could be successful, and we did that, with the exception of last weekend, when he had a little bit of a mental breakdown."

Partridge said taking on a bigger role with the Sea-Hawks is Thistle's "next big step," as the St. John's native moves into her fourth year.

"She is not a real vocal person," Partridge noted, "but she will need to become more of a leadership force, whether by example or by word and, in game situations, be a little more willing to vocalize what has to be done.

"When she is at her best, she is using her athleticism to wreak havoc with the other teams' game plan, stealing passes, getting rebounds, running the floor."

"She is becoming a better defender. I think she is primed for a good run to end her career," Partridge said.

Overall, Partridge is happy with Thistle's development.

"She has worked very hard both physically and skill wise to improve her game," he said. "She shot 45 percent from three-point range this year and led the league in field goal shooting."

Still, Partridge said he was "concerned" with Thistle's play in a two-game series last weekend against Cape Breton, a series the Capers swept.

"She was not focused rebounding -wise and it resulted in us giving up too many second shots," said Partridge.

Thistle agrees with that assessment.

"I didn't have a very strong game defensively the past two weekends," she said. "My rebounding just hasn't been there. I haven't been boxing out basically. Some of the players I play against are bigger than me and they are able to push me under, so if I'm not boxing out I have no chance.

"I know I have to box out this weekend."

And while Thistle is always looking for was to improve her game, she says, "You can't try to do more than you are capable of because if you put too much pressure on yourself, you are not going to do anything."

Partridge appeared to be upset with all of his players at practice earlier this week.

There was a report the MUN coach sent his players off the court 20 minutes after the start of a practice Tuesday night because he was perturbed with their effort.

"As always with these things," said Partridge, "they get exaggerated. We practised for an hour. We weren't working with the right focus for the work to be effective, so I sent the players home."

Asked if this was a concern considering the abbreviated practice occurred only days before the playoffs begin, Partridge replied: "We had a great practice on Monday and another one Wednesday night, so I am not concerned in the least, really. We are veteran enough at key positions to know what we have to do."

All he requires, according to Partridge, is that the players "come focused and prepared to work."

So did they get the message?

"I would say, yes, based on the excellent work that they put in (Wednesday)."

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Sea-Hawks, Atlantic Universities Sport, University of Toronto

Geographic location: St. John's, Cape Breton

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