Crusader boys secure spot in HOOPLA, Marauders finish fourth

Herald File Photo. Carlton head coach Randy Emmerson speaks to his team prior to a practice in November 2023.

The Carlton Crusader boys basketball team is off to HOOPLA 2024 in Moose Jaw.

“Our weekend was terrific.” Carlton head coach Randy Emmerson said in a phone interview. “We started the first game there on Friday playing a tough, talented and hard working group from Swift Current. We started slow but gradually gained momentum and were able to come ahead and stay ahead and get a chance to really work on some of the things that we needed to.”

Carlton would finish the weekend with a 2-1 record, defeating Swift Current 93-67 before defeating host Lloydminster 80-55 and guaranteeing a spot in HOOPLA regardless of outcome.

Emmerson says it was a challenge taking on the hosts with a spot in HOOPLA on the line, but he was pleased with how the Crusaders responded to the adversity.

“We came out and played a tough home team with a strong crowd behind them and it was back and forth for a while until eventually I think we were able to get into a rhythm. We were able to limit some of their chances, they are an unorthodox team that shoots a lot of threes. We found a way to just fight through some of the screens and the motion and challenge them. I think our depth kept us going.”

In the final, Carlton was matched up with North Battleford Comprehensive who have played tight matchups all season long.

Carlton would rally in the second half, but couldn’t quite pull away the victory, falling 92-85 in overtime.

Emmerson gave a lot of credit to North Battleford and the way they played defensively.

“They play a pretty aggressive 2-3 zone that doesn’t give you a lot of room and it caused us to need to make some adjustments and then in the second-half again our depth had us rally back from 18 points down to get tied with about 20 seconds left. At that point in time, we had a few chances to actually put them away in regulation and didn’t. We came out in the overtime and we had a few foul trouble issues. North Battleford is a talented team that plays really hard for their young coach and we’ve got our ticket to hoopla this coming weekend and we’re looking forward to the possibility of going in and continuing on with our season.”

Marauder boys fall short of third straight HOOPLA appearance.
The St. Mary Marauder boys entered regional play looking to punch their ticket to HOOPLA for the third consecutive season.

St. Mary would start off on the right foot defeating Estevan 84-76 in their first game, before falling to the eventual regional champion North Battleford 85-59 in the semi-final.

The Marauders would have an opportunity to secure a ticket to HOOPLA in the bronze medal game, but couldn’t hold off a late surge from Lloydminster who came back to win 71-66.

Head coach David Seto says it was a heartbreaking end to the season, but he saw positives from his team throughout the weekend.

“Our goal is to qualify for HOOPLA. We won our first game against Estevan, which put us on the A side, which was nice. The bronze win would have put us into HOOPLA (and) we ended up losing by 5. That was disappointing considering we were leading for about 90% of the game. They come back in the last couple of minutes and fold it away. That’s disappointing, but that’s sport. I’ve been on the other end winning close games before,I certainly understand the other side as well.”

Even with the Marauders not reaching their ultimate goal, Seto says he feels the St. Mary basketball program is in a very good position.

“I don’t think there’s too many other programs that could say (they’ve been to) three HOOPLAs in a row. I know we didn’t accomplish that, but to be that close, I think the program is in good shape looking forward to the future.”

HOOPLA is scheduled to begin on Thursday in Moose Jaw.