NBIAA Final 12

Woodstock Coach Understands Final 12 Game Preparation

It’s different. The only word that truly resonates when it comes to battling one weekend in a New Brunswick high school gymnasium to Harbour Station is different.

Why different? Have a look around.

Most players know almost every inch of their high school gymnasium and many around the province have favourite floors elsewhere they are comfortable playing in. But when your school makes it to Harbour Station to participate in the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association Final 12 in Saint John, everything is different.

We’re talking one of Atlantic Canada’s premier multi-purpose facilities that is home to the Final 12 and six games at the AAA, AA and A levels of high school basketball in the province.

For some, the challenge is something to embrace. For others, it can be difficult. Scott Jones knows just a little about preparing for a Final 12. Jones is the veteran head coach of the Woodstock High Thunder. He has been to 13 provincial championship games at Harbour Station and when it was held at the Aitken University Centre on the campus of the University of New Brunswick.

Thirteen? Yes, 13.

If there is one thing Jones has learned about reaching the Final 12, it’s not necessarily all about X’s and O’s for his Thunder.

“To be honest, the first thing I tell my team is to enjoy every minute, it’s all about the experience and it’s really bigger than the game itself,” Jones said. “I’ve never understood teams that come and don’t allow their players to participate in everything. This isn’t business. It’s high school basketball, it’s education. I want my players to watch other games and acclimatize themselves with the atmosphere. Take it all in. You might as well embrace the distractions.  That has been my approach. Other coaches could approach it much, much differently, but let’s enjoy this experience.”

Jones said the pre-game practice is a chance for him to watch his players in a non-pressure environment. Teams don’t have a lot of time on the practice floor of Harbour Station, but the head coach gets players and families to soak it in.

“For many, the practice floor is the best part and I make sure we always allow parents to take pictures if they want to and just be a part of it with their children,” he said. “We don’t change too many things when it comes to an X and O system. Saying that, it is different preparing for one opposing team for a week. You obviously come up with a game plan, but that game plan revolves around your strengths and the things that you there as best it can. Rarely would we ever try and implement something completely new. You’re also usually pretty familiar with your opponent.”

Jones had stopped numerous times to smell the Final 12 roses.

Once you look up above centre court and see that giant screen, you know you’ve arrived.

‘As far as I’m concerned, getting to the Final 12 is the stressful part,’ he said. ‘Once you get there, you need to relax and enjoy it. The players understand what’s on the line. They don’t often need to be reminded. I’ve never had a team not show up ready to play. It’s often the team that can keep their emotions in check and execute that has the most success.’

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