“It’s a gold medal for us in the end” Crusader girls capture Hoopla consolation final

Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald. Karstin Mitchell of the Carlton Crusaders attempts a free throw during the 5A Girls consolation final at Hoopla 2023.

Not many teams have the chance to say they won their final game of the season, but the Carlton Crusader girls basketball team finished on a high note with a 72-48 victory in the Hoopla consolation final on Saturday morning over Holy Cross.

Crusader co-coach Jenn Ferguson says the win shows the improvement the team has made throughout the season.

“It was huge today. We told the girls that we wanted the only loss to be against the provincial gold or silver medalist. Harvest City is in the final. We had lost Holy Cross in our previous matchup early in the season by about 15. To get a 25-point win shows the vast improvement the girls have made over the course of the year. So going 2-1 at Hoopla, it was beyond our expectations, they played amazing.”

The Carlton girls would lead 36-29 at the half and would pull away from Holy Cross in the second half.

The Crusaders fell in their first game of Hoopla 66-55 to Harvest City on Thursday night, after the opening loss Carlton would not falter the rest of the tournament to finish with a win on the consolation bracket.

Head coach Kelsey Pearson says Carlton set the goal for themselves after losing their opening game.

“it’s a gold medal for us in the end because that is a huge win for us. We had a goal after that first loss and we didn’t want to lose again. And I feel like the girls just kick some kick some butt this weekend, and they did awesome.”

The Crusaders will graduate four Grade 12s including Katie Hawkes.

Although she had to leave the game with an injury, Hawkes says the win was a good way for her high school basketball career to come to a close.

“it’s very special. I don’t think we’ve beaten [Holy Cross] since our grade 9 year. It’s very emotional. And we didn’t focus on that much all year, but we hold that very close to our hearts because the stuff we have worked towards paid off in this game.”

Throughout her high school career, Hawkes and other members of the Class of 2023 have had to deal with the challenges for being a high school athlete during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She says playing in Hoopla in her hometown was a great end to her high school career with the challenges she faced.

“It was a very big thing to overcome, our season was cut off in Grade 9, and we didn’t make it last year. This is the first year we’ve ever come to play. And I know in Grade 7 and 8, the other girls have watched, but I’ve never been. So, it was really cool, and it was really special. A couple of the girls who played when we were in grade 9 came and watched and gave us big hugs and they were our biggest fans.”