Junior Sharks and T-Birds score zone titles
St. Mary School sweeps 1J/2J basketball zones March 3-4 at the Rotary Spirit Centre; R.F. junior high boys claim gold in Morinville
Tuesday, Mar 07, 2017 06:00 am
Westlock’s junior high basketball teams from St. Mary School and R.F. Staples had a golden weekend.
The St. Mary Sharks glittered with gold as both the boys and girls teams earned gold at the 1J/2J junior high basketball zones hosted by the school at the Rotary Spirit Centre March 3-4. Meanwhile R.F. Staples junior high basketball teams finished the season with gold and bronze in the 4J North Central junior high basketball zones.
The boys wrapped their undefeated season with gold in Morinville and the girls topped off their season with bronze in Edson March 3-4.
The North Central Zones in Westlock brought out 16 teams from as far away as Neerlandia, Hinton, Boyle and Legal for St. Mary School’s second year hosting.
“It’s a great weekend to basketball,” said co-organizer and St. Mary Sharks boys head coach Daniel Krywko.
The Sharks boys claimed their title as reigning champions two years in a row for the zones’ top spot.
“The boys played really well,” he said. “The biggest thing for them is team work — everybody contributed, everybody did their part, everybody played really well.”
“One of our strengths is our willingness to get rebounds. We just don’t give up. We kept pushing in our first game, second game, third game and our guys just keep working strong and don’t give up. They just play and work together as a team.”
The boys put up a fight against Legal in the first game and netted a 55-28 win, followed by a hard battle against Pine Grove. The boys won 48-35, moving them on to the finals against Niton Central. Despite the seven-man roster battling the court against 10- or 12-man rosters, the Sharks kept pushing to take a 63-30 win and the gold.
“I’m really proud of the boys,” he said. “They deserve it. This season they all worked really hard. Compared to the beginning of the season ‘til now, they’ve grown.”
The girls also powered their way through the zones and decimated last year’s champ Pembina North Community School 48-21 in the final match up.
“These guys worked their butts off this game,” said Sharks girls’ head coach Janelle DaCunha. “There was a small moment there where I had three injuries back to back to back, so it was looking dicey but we pulled it out.”
DaCunha said it was all about the defense on this game and staying with them as the Pembina North Panthers moved their way down the court.
“We’ve seen Pembina North a couple of times during league,” she said. “We beat them both times, but they’ve always given us a really tough game so it’s nice to see them in the finals and know we can pull it out when it actually counted.”
However, she noted that the team has never struggled with offense.
“We’re very, very good under the net,” she said. “The only time we’ve ever lost a game is when we drop our defense.”
That was the case in the Sharks’ first game against Niton Central on Friday where they lost a lead between the second and third quarters, but the girls pulled through in the fourth for a close 54-45 win.
The Sharks dropped a bit in the third quarter of Saturday morning’s game against Wildwood but won 42-23.
“We had a really nice eight-person draw on both sides this time,” she said of the zone championships, pointing out the competition has steadily grown from last year’s six teams on each side. Two teams were turned away who were late to the draw.
“Some teams we had to turn down that were late coming,” Krywko added.
R.F. nets gold and bronze
In Morinville the boys defeated Hinton’s Harry Collinge High School 66-34 in their first game of the zones. The T-Birds followed that up with a second win, running circles around Edson’s Parkland Composite with a score of 88-37.
“In the first two games, it was the same calibre of competition that we had seen earlier in the season,” Hurst said. “They didn’t make us push ourselves as hard as Morinville did in the championship.”
The T-Birds faced tougher competition in the championship game against Morinville. Hurst said they really stepped up their game and pushed themselves to work the ball around more than what they have been used to over the season.
“Morinville was a little tighter because we played them last week and they switched up their defensive moves and modified some things just like we did, so it was close the whole game,” she said.
Still, the T-Birds took away gold to finish 60-49 against Morinville.
“It’s unbelievable to me that they were undefeated this year,” said Hurst. “I’m very proud of them. They just kept pushing themselves harder and hard at practice and at games.”
Although the season is over, Hurst hoped to set up exhibition games against top-ranked Edmonton teams.
The girls were down in Edson Friday and Saturday for the 4J zone tournament there, playing hard for the bronze medal.
“We’ve had a very successful season and I think it’s been building up,” said girls head coach Margaret Benham, who capped off her last coaching season with the zone championship.
“We didn’t let up. We went there to win and we went there to play for a medal and we did.”
The T-Birds were matched up against Harry Collinge in their first game, but due to a shortage of players on the opposition side, the T-Birds posted a 65-24 win, putting them on the medal side of the championship.
“We only had missing one girl to another sport and that was it,” Benham said. “Everybody came ready to play.”
On Saturday, the girls took on Morinville but ended up coming up short, 45-39.
“Not for lack of trying,” Benham said. “It was close game. It was a really tough game.”
In the final round, the girls were face-to-face with Barrhead for the second time in two weeks.
But just like the week before, the T-Birds dominated Barrhead 54-29 for bronze.
“Everybody played really hard but I really relied on my veterans on the team to really pull through,” she said. “Everybody played well and did what they had to do. I had some players switch different positions that they were used to playing. They played different so I could have a taller line and that’s how we beat Barrhead.”