Crusader girls hoping for successful 2023-24 campaign

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald Carlton Crusader guard Kiera Howden dribbles the ball up court during high school basketball action at Ecole St. Mary last Friday.

The stage is set, and the Carlton Crusaders senior girls basketball team is excited to step back onto the court.

Carlton kicked off their 2023-24 basketball season finishing with a bronze medal in the Kelly Smith Memorial Tournament at Ecole St. Mary this past weekend.

Head coach Kelsey Pearson says she saw plenty of positives in the first tournament of the season.

“We didn’t know how this weekend was going to go. We knew there’d be a lot of learning and we were completely surprised by how well the girls did. (I’m) just so happy and proud of them. We didn’t know what we were going to do this year, how it was going to go. We had so many girls just step on the court and take charge. They were just learning how to be a team. There’s still lots to learn, and that’s the even more exciting part about it all.”

Larsen spoke to the Daily Herald prior to a Carlton practice on Tuesday afternoon. She says the Crusaders have a strong team dynamic despite being very early in their season.

“We work good as a team and we all really get along. It’s really fun playing with everyone and it’s fun being a senior because I get to tell people what to do (and lead).”

The Crusaders feature four Grade 12 players who all played in HOOPLA 2023 in Prince Albert. Finley Larsen, Ava Helgason, Madelyn Tomyn and Karstin Mitchell make up the core four of graduating players.

Pearson says Carlton will rely on their leadership and will look to push the pace against teams all season long.

“Once we get going and that learning progresses, we’re going to be fast. We have a lot of really fast guards, and we have a couple posts that are key to our game under the hoop. I think that quickness with the ability to hopefully get some rebounds will be one of our best strengths.”

Carlton qualified for HOOPLA last season and would finish as the consolation bracket champions, defeating St. Mary and Saskatoon Holy Cross after falling in their opening game to eventual provincial runner up Harvest City.

In order to make it back to HOOPLA this coming March, Pearson says Carlton will need to bond as a team and play together.

“Number one is working as a team and that’s always been our most important thing. Being a good teammate, knowing how to be part of a team will get you the farthest in any kind of game or sport you’re ever going to play, and I think that’s number one. Hopefully things fall into place, and we find ourselves back in that provincial caliber, that provincial placing again.”

Larsen says the Crusaders have their sights set on a HOOPLA berth at the end of this season but will need to grow and develop throughout the season in order to make it there.

“We just really need to be in the gym shooting lots and making sure our shots are good and we make all the free throw shots. We need to do a lot of team building to earn each other’s trust and I think we have a good chance of making it to HOOPLA.”

2023-24 Carlton Crusaders Girls Roster

#4 Lilly Slack

#5 Kiera Howden

#7 Ava Larsen

#8 Finley Larsen

#9 Bella Adams

#10 Alyssa Sharp

#11 Criseyde Borthwick

#12 Ava Helgason

#13 Madelyn Tomyn

#14 Karstin Mitchell

#15 Mackenzie Naytowhow

Coaching Staff:

Head coach Kelsey Pearson

Assistant Jenn Ferguson

Assistant Richard Rink

Assistant Cody Barnett