Carlton Crusaders reflect on Bedford Road Invitational experience

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald Luke Huddlestone of the Carlton Crusaders prepares for a jump shot during practice at Carlton Comprehensive High School on Jan. 18, 2023.

It was a program first for the Carlton Crusaders Boys Basketball program as they made their inaugural appearance at the Bedford Road Invitational Tournament (BRIT) this past weekend in Saskatoon.

Carlton head coach Tom Hazzard says getting an invite to the tournament shows just how much the team has improved.

“Even just getting to that tournament speaks a lot about our program and how we have grown over the last couple years. Our ability to compete with some of the top teams is phenomenal. I think moving forward, that is only going to help our program.”

Overall, the Crusaders would finish the weekend with a 1-2 record. Carlton would fall 100-81 in their opening game on Friday night against Riffel, with senior Luke Huddlestone taking home Player of the Game honors.

The Crusaders would fall in their second game on Friday to Collingwood by a final score of 90-73. Prenav Saggar took home player of the game honors for Carlton.

Carlton was able to end the tournament on a positive note with a 94-63 win against the Martin Collegiate on Saturday afternoon.

Hazzard says the Crusaders showed an ability to hang tough against strong opponents throughout the tournament.

“You’re playing against some of the top teams in Western Canada. Our focus was to go in and compete. I thought that if we could compete, we’d have some chances to win some games. In all three games, we were competing, and we had chances to win all three games. Our goal was to go in and compete and give ourselves a chance to win and we did that in all three games.”

Hazzard adds that the environment of the tournament was something the Crusaders were not used to and had to adjust to playing in front of a massive crowd.

“I think at first, we were at awe from the whole situation. From walking into the hotel and seeing 100 other players checking in at the same time or walking into the gym with a game going on with 1000 people. Once they got over that, they enjoyed playing in that atmosphere and that experience was fantastic.”

The tournament provided crucial experience for the entirety of the Crusader roster. Luke Huddlestone, who is in his Grade 12 season with Carlton is being recruited from several CIS schools across Canada. He says BRIT provides an atmosphere that can be similar to the game at the university level.

“It definitely shows the environment that a university game would have. The atmosphere where the crowds are either on your side or not on your side. And the high-level basketball where we are in tournaments against the best teams is where we really improve and where we come together as a team.”

Huddlestone adds that the playing in the atmosphere of BRIT provides an opportunity he missed out at earlier in his high school career because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s definitely fun. It would’ve been nice to have a Grade 10 year. Honestly, getting to go to these really good tournaments is the best scenario. I missed out like 30 or 40 games of my high school career. Getting to play in BRIT and some Regina and Saskatoon tournaments. To play in those tournaments means more to me than just getting to play in the rural tournaments.”