High school hoopsters end year on the medal podium

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Westlock’s high school basketball teams managed to climb on to the medal podium at the weeknd’s zone championships, with R.F. Staples scoring double bronze, while St. Mary School’s senior girls also medalled.

R.F. Staples teams finished their seasons with their heads high as both squads claimed home bronze medals at their respective 3A zone tournaments after defeating long-time rivals Barrhead.

The boys completed their season at the zones in Morinville March 10-11, while the girls travelled to Edson.

“It went good, we’re pretty happy with everything,” said boys coach Ken Williston.

Both tournaments boiled down to a series of tight games for both teams.

The girls went in their zones with the fourth seed and faced Athabasca in Game 1. “That was an unreal game,” said girls coach Pierre Ouimet. “We ended up going to overtime and we beat them 41-40. It was absolutely crazy. That was probably our best team win for the whole year.

“Then we got to play the No. 1 seed in the zone, the Parkland Composite High School team, who was hosting. They’re a very strong team. We played a good game, but we got down 10 points early on and we just were never able to recover.”

In an appropriate finish, both teams ended up playing Barrhead for bronze.

“We match up quite well with them, but that was a back-and-forth game as well. We ended up beating them 53-47. It was pretty good we came out on top over Barrhead,” said Ouimet.

Williston added that while the bronze medal was sweet, the real victory was the class both teams showed.

“I was very impressed with everyone on the team, how they carried themselves and how they acted. The respect that they had for their opponents was very sportsmanlike,” said Williston. “They were a joy to coach for sure.”

As both teams will be graduating a number of players, both coaches noted the teams will look different next year.

“We have seven Grade 12s,” said Williston. “So next year will be almost a new team again.”

The St. Mary Sharks senior basketball teams wrapped their season at the 1A zones March 10-11, with the girls netting bronze and the boys capturing the consolation final.

“We were the fifth seed and we played the fourth seed, who we beat by 20,” said girls head coach Glenn Schwarz, whose team was in Evansburg.

“It was a good team game, we didn’t shoot that good in the first quarter but we did very well in the rest of the game. Our defense was great.”

The Sharks then faced Grand Trunk High School, who were the tournament hosts.

“They’re ranked first in the zone, they beat us pretty bad, which is to be expected — they’re ranked sixth overall in the province.”

The loss to Grand Trunk put the girls in the bronze medal game against Thorsby, who they were able to defeat 49-39.

“We were down by 17 in the first half and then we outscored them by 27 points in the second. The girls really came together in that last game.”

Schwarz added that he was most impressed with how the club developed over the season.

“From the beginning of the year to the end of the year the team improved drastically,” said Schwarz, noting that he only has one player graduating this year.

“St. Mary hasn’t had a strong girls team for quite awhile. We basically just put the zone on notice that they have to watch out for St. Mary’s next year.”

The boys had a similar experience in their march to the consolation final at the zones in Breton.

“We didn’t play very good in our first game against Evansburg,” said boys head coach Darcy Romanuik. “That put us on the consolation side, but after that our goal was to go 2-0 on the Saturday and we accomplished that.”

The boys went on to down Redwater 80-50 and posted a 45-43 win over Neerlandia to claim the consolation title.

“The last 11 seconds of that game were probably the most exciting 11 seconds you could have in a basketball game,” said Romanuik.

“We had turnovers, kids forgetting to turn the score clock on. It was pandemonium. All the fans that were there definitely got their money’s worth, even though they didn’t have to pay to get in.”

Romanuik added that the year was a great development experience for the program.

“We ended the season with a two-game winning streak,” he said. “We had one of those learning curve years. Heading into next year with pretty much the same team, except for graduating one player, I think the future is really bright. We’re all excited for next season.”

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