Carlton Crusaders hopeful for Hoopla success

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald Carlton Crusaders guard Abdi Sharif prepares to take a jump shot during a team practice at Carlton Comprehensive High School on Monday, Mar. 20, 2023.

With tip-off on Hoopla less than 72 hours away, the Carlton Crusaders are looking to make some noise in Saskatchewan’s biggest high school basketball tournament this weekend in Prince Albert.


The Carlton Crusader boys basketball team is entering the weekend on a high note after securing the 5A Boys regional title last weekend in Moose Jaw.

Carlton defeated Warman in their opening game 89-47 and a semi final win over Moose Jaw Peacock set up a regional championship matchup with the St. Mary Marauders.

Carlton defeated their crosstown rival 111-81 to capture the regional title and the fifth seed heading into Hoopla this weekend in Prince Albert.

It was the second consecutive regional title for the Crusaders. Head coach Tom Hazzard says the regional win gives Carlton momentum heading into Hoopla.

“I was just telling the boys that it’s never easy. They think it’s easy, but it’s never easy winning a regional championship in any category. It’s always difficult. And I think that it means a lot to these guys to win two in a row. They won last year and winning again this year, and I think it means a lot to them going in.”

The Carlton boys will begin their Hoopla play on Thursday evening against fourth seeded Miller (Regina), a team that Carlton has not played against all season.

Hazzard says putting pressure on Miller will be one of the keys to success for the Crusaders.

“I think number one is defence. I think that we have to switch up our defences. I think we have to give Miller a taste of some zone and a taste of some man and switch it up. I think when you can take teams out of their rhythm. I think that can be an advantage, so, number one is switching up some defence.

“Number two, we have to be able to shoot the ball well in our own gym. This is our gym and we’ve shot thousands of shots in here. We have to really shoot the ball out, and number three, I think we’ve got to run. We’re a running team. We’re in great shape. I think we’ve got to run.”

The Crusader boys feature a roster with plenty of veteran experience. Carlton has 11 Grade 12 players on their roster this season.

“The experience is definitely going to help.” Hazzard says “We’ve been there before. We know what it looks like. We’ve tasted defeat. And I think that that makes these guys hungry. I think that they want to win this first game at a really bad light. And I think that that’s important.”

Abdi Sharif is one of the Grade 12 players on the Carlton Crusaders. He says that Carlton will have to locked in and focused from tip off against Miller.

“We just got to keep our heads in the game and try to play through it. You know, it’s a lot of pressure because it’s our home gym, our home crowd and it’s going to be really intense. But we just got to just put our minds to the game and try to play intense and play through it and it’s going to be worth it all in the end.”

The Carlton boys begin Hoopla play on Thursday night at Carlton’s CPAC gymnasium. Tip off is at 8 p.m.


The Carlton Crusader Sr. A Girls Basketball Team poses for a photo after defeating Carpenter High School 72-40 to win the Charity of Choice Invitational Tournament. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

For the Grade 12 players on the Carlton Crusaders girls roster, this year’s edition of Hoopla has been a long time coming.

Head coach Kelsey Pearson says some players on the roster have been waiting their entire high school career to get an opportunity to play in the tournament.

“It’s super special. I have a group of Grade 12s this year that were on my basketball team when they were in grade nine and COVID cut their season short. We were definitely destined to be into hoopla that year. We were pretty good. We had a pretty strong team. Our goal this year was to make it to Hoopla, and the grade 12s are extremely grateful.

“This year they have the opportunity to actually go and play this weekend, especially when it’s in our hometown. So [it is] very special for these girls. They worked incredibly hard.”

The Crusader girls had to face plenty of adversity on the path to Hoopla qualification. In the regional tournament in Lloydminster last weekend, Carlton entered as the number two seed in the tournament.

Carlton picked up an 89-30 victory in their opening game against Weyburn.

However, the Crusaders would drop their next game to St. Mary sending Carlton to the bronze medal game, which they needed to win in order to secure a Hoopla berth.

Carlton would prevail in the bronze medal game against Peacock (Moose Jaw) by the score of 73-57 earning the Crusaders.

Pearson says the Carlton coaching staff was thrilled with how the team rebounded after the tough loss.

“We are extremely proud of the way they handled themselves. They stayed composed. It was a really hard game to come back from. I don’t know a lot of athletes that could face that adversity going into that last game and then having to basically forget about it and then be ready to play the next game, that is hard to do. They were exhausted. We’re very proud of how they composed and how they handled themselves. They pulled off the win. We’re just super proud of them.”

The Crusader girls enter as the seventh seed in Hoopla and will open the tournament Thursday night against Harvest City (Regina).

With Carlton hosting their opening game, Pearson says the Crusaders will give it their all on home court.

“We try to keep practices light and very focused, do as much team stuff together this week as we can. They’re going to be nervous no matter what we do. A little bit of pressure on the girls is good too because it’s important not only in basketball but just in life. They have to learn how to deal with pressure and they have to learn how to cope, and they have to learn how to come together as a team and rely on each other when things get a little bit tough. The best part about it is Harvest City is ranked two and we are not, so we are coming in as the underdog. Although it’s in our home gym, they can just go and play their hearts out, win or lose, they can just leave it out on the court.”

The Crusader girls begin Hoopla play on Thursday evening at Carlton’s CPAC gymnasium against Harvest City. Tip off is at 6 p.m.