Marauder and Crusader boys heading to Hoopla after first and second place finishes at regionals

Luke Huddlestone of the Carlton Crusaders throws down a dunk during the regional tournament in Prince Albert last weekend. --Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

This weekend will not only mark the final weekend of high school basketball for the St. Mary Marauders and Carlton Crusaders senior A boys basketball teams, it will also mark the biggest tournament of the season.

Both teams will head to Regina for Hoopla, the provincial basketball tournament featuring the top eight high school basketball teams in the province.

The Crusaders earned a berth at Hoopla at the 5A regional tournament in Prince Albert last weekend, winning the regional championship. They defeated the Marauders 93-60 in the final. Carlton went into regionals as the top seeded team.

Carlton began their regional run with a dominant 105-53 over Lloydminster. They commanded much of their semi final meeting with Weyburn, winning 76-56. The semi final win secured their spot at provincials, as the top two teams from regionals advanced to the dance.

Crusaders coach Tom Hazzard says their semi final game against Weyburn was a tough one to win. Their were some adjustments that he had to make to give his team the upper hand, since Weyburn came out with a new gameplan against them.

“When you see teams earlier in the season, you learn things about each other,” Hazzard said. “You make a gameplan for things that you have seen for each team. The Weyburn game particularly, we were expecting them to come out in a man to man and play aggressive that way. Instead, they came out in a zone defence, which threw us for a loop for a little bit. We were able to adjust after the first quarter and make some major adjustments, and then we were able to prevail.

“Teams really adjust at this time of year and gameplan against you, which means you have to gameplan against them. It’s those game adjustments that you have to make during the game that either makes or breaks your season.”

The second seeded Marauders had a pair of close games to begin their journey to Hoopla. Their first game was a 65-50 victory over the seventh seeded Yorkton. Their second game against sixth seeded Warman was decided by a 10 point difference, with St. Mary coming out on top 63-53.

“Obviously you can’t complain about making it to Hoopla,” Marauders coach Dave Seto said. “Out of all the teams at regionals, to be in that top two is an accomplishment. I thought at times we were a little bit nervous, just because we came in as the two seed and maybe expected to go. Overall I thought we competed very hard and we made the plays when we had to.”

St. Mary Marauders guard Ethan Batiuk closely watches his check at the regional tournament at Carlton. –Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Seto explained what he liked from his team at regionals, giving most of the credit to how sound they played defensively.

“It starts with our transition game, because we really like to run the ball and push the play,” he said. “But we always say defence wins. We had good defensive gameplans going in. Our tactics, as well as our boxing out and rebounding were good. We had to neutralize a couple of teams that had a couple of bigs that were bigger than our bigs. I was particularly happy with the way we played on the defensive side of the ball.”

For both teams, this will be the first year that the players will get to experience and play at Hoopla. Since there has been no competition since 2019 on the basketball stage, the nerves will be around for both sides.

“It’s strange, because some of these guys didn’t know how big of a deal Hoopla is,” Seto said. “The last time they played competitive ball was when they were in grade nine. Even going into regionals, I don’t think they truly understood how much pressure was there. Even this week, we as coaches had to tell them what to expect and how big of a deal Hoopla really is.

“There’s going to be media there, there will be some scouts there. We have to do team pictures and we go through a criteria. There’s going to be a big crowd there, so we wanted to talk to our team on how to stay focused, but to also just enjoy the moment and to be proud of their season. This is a big deal, it isn’t just a regular tournament. We’re one of the top eight teams in the province, and that’s something to be proud of.”

Hazzard echoed Seto’s thoughts, saying his Crusader team will be embracing the new opportunity to play on the biggest stage in high school sports.

“I talked to coach Seto about this last night. These kids don’t realize the stage that they’re going into. They’ve never been there. There are a couple of players that may have experienced it through older siblings, but it’s not the same. They’re going to step onto a stage with a lot of people, and a lot of excitement. I don’t think they have come into the realization yet of how big of a moment this will be for them.

“The last time they played competitive basketball was in grade nine, and maybe some in grade 10, and at that level they don’t experience Hoopla. My message to our group is to just enjoy the moment. Getting to Hoopla is never easy, and you can’t take it for granted. At the same time, we’re going there to compete and make an impression.”

St. Mary will be making their first trip to Hoopla since 2016, when they lost in the provincial final in a close 80-75 final to Regina Leboldus. The Marauders won the regional championship that year, beating North Battleford 116-86 in the final.

The Crusaders enter Hoopla as the seven seed this year, while the Marauders adopt the eight seed. Carlton will take on the second seeded Saskatoon Holy Cross in their first game on Friday night. Holy Cross won Hoopla in 2019, as they beat Regina Leboldus 76-57 in the provincial final. St. Mary will take on the top seeded Harvest City out of Regina.

For both the Crusaders and Marauders, it will be win or go home in their first game of the weekend. A win will advance each team to the semi finals, but a first round loss will send them into the consolation bracket.

St. Mary and Harvest City kick off Hoopla with the first game of the tournament at Miller Comprehensive High School in Regina. Tip off is at 2:45 p.m.

Carlton will play the third game of the day, with a 6:15 p.m. tip off against Holy Cross.

Saskatoon Walter Murray will square off with Regina Leboldus in the first round, while Regina Campbell faces Saskatoon Aden Bowman to round out the quarter final matchups.