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Coaching legend Gail MacDougall of Antigonish reaches 900-win milestone

Antigonish native Gail MacDougall, who has coached the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals Division 1 girls' basketball team for 39 seasons, recently earned her 900th win with the program. Herald file
Antigonish native Gail MacDougall, who has coached the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals Division 1 girls' basketball team for 39 seasons, recently earned her 900th win with the program. Herald file - Corey LeBlanc

39 seasons and counting with the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals

A coaching legend has achieved another milestone in a second-to-none career.    

Gail MacDougall has reached 900 victories as head coach of the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals girls’ basketball program.    

The Antigonish native accomplished the feat, Dec. 16, when the Royals defeated the Lockview Dragons 45-39 at the North Nova Education Centre tournament in New Glasgow.    

“I think it means we have been fairly consistent, which is what we always strive for,” she said of reaching the landmark.    

MacDougall noted her pride in the Royals being competitive, on a regular basis, at the Division 1 level in the province.    

Not surprisingly, the modest leader and mentor deflected any praise of her achievements over the past 39 seasons, while crediting the players and coaches – past and present – for what they have provided to the program.    

“The players have put so much into the program,” MacDougall said, noting a key to any successes has been their dedication “to playing hard and together as a team.”

We are family    

“No question about it,” MacDougall said, when asked if “family” was a fitting word to describe the Royals.    

She noted that togetherness is reflected in myriad ways, including through former players returning to the bench as assistant coaches.    

“We have so many people who have given back,” MacDougall said.    

Former players – and their families – remain dedicated supporters of the team, whether it is coming to games and cheering on the team or providing items for           the hospitality room during home tournaments.    

“You see the support every year with the turnout for our alumni game,” MacDougall said of the Boxing Day tradition, which features the current Royals versus a collection of former players. 

What’s next?            

MacDougall is the second Antigonish-based basketball head coach to earn 900 career wins.    

Earlier this season, veteran St. F.X. X-Men head coach Steve Konchalski also reached that benchmark.    

With this win total in the rear view mirror, MacDougall was asked if the focus becomes 1,000 wins.    

“No way,” she said, with a laugh, noting her focus is always the “next win.”    

When she took the Royals’ bench in the late 1970s, MacDougall said she never envisioned being there almost four decades later.    

“I have enjoyed it so much,” she said, noting the joy in having the opportunity “to work with so many outstanding young people.”

On the court    

The aforementioned 900th victory came in come-from-behind fashion as the Royals posted a 2-1 mark in the North Nova tournament.     

After rallying from an 11-point deficit, the Royals improved to 2-0 in the tournament.         

Grade 11 guard Charleigh Clarke and game star Jessica Mackinnon scored 14 points apiece for the Royals.    

Mackinnon added eight rebounds.    

Madison Gorman garnered the hustle award for the Regional.    

The Royals opened the tournament with another comeback in a 69-65 win over Charlottetown Rural High School.    

They trailed 21-7 after the first quarter and 33-26 at halftime.    

Lauren Lowther scored a game-high 26 points, including 23 in the second half, and grabbed eight rebounds.    

Clarke, the player of the game, collected 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, while first-year guard Emily Macdonald chipped in six points and 10 rebounds.    

Lowther won the hustle award for the Regional.    

The Royals wrapped up the tournament with a 78-42 loss to the rival CEC Cougars of Truro.    

Emily Macdonald, with six points and 10 rebounds, was named player of the game for the Regional.    

Brooke MacDonald, another Grade 9 player earned the hustle award.    

Lowther added seven points and 10 rebounds.

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