PACI and Creighton advance to 3A Sr. Boys Basketball regional tournament

Max Pahtayken/Daily Herald Prince Albert. Collegiate (PACI) Golden Bears #8 Keagan Elliott takes a shot at the basket while being guarded by the Creighton Kodiaks in their conference playoff game at PACI on Mar. 9.

Max Pahtayken, Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Collegiate (PACI) Golden Bears and the Creighton Kodiaks are both advancing to the 3A Boys Basketball Regional tournament after qualifying at the 3A Senior Boys Basketball Conference Tournament at PACI on March 8-9.

This is the Golden Bears’ third time going to basketball regionals since 2007. The Bears were expected to go to regionals in 2020, but were unable to go due to the COVID-19 lockdown. The Bears went to regionals in Unity, in 2022.

In an interview with the Daily Herald, Golden Bears head coach Curtis McCallum says he is enthusiastic about advancing to the regional tournament.

“We are excited to move on to regionals. It feels pretty good to move on with this team, with the boys. I feel like they’re excited, I’m excited. They’re excited to have one more week of basketball, (that’s) the main thing. I think they’re going to have a lot of fun there. It will be a great way to end the season.”

Number 15 Logan McCallum, is a grade twelve for the PACI Golden Bears. Logan is finishing his last year in high school, and will graduate in June 2024. In an interview, he said the season has been slow for his team, but he is also excited to go to regionals.

“We started off not winning much, but now we’re going to regionals…. I’m very excited about regionals. It’s my first time for basketball.”

However, this is not the first time the Creighton Kodiaks have been to the regional tournament. Head Coach Ian Clark said in an interview the squad is looking forward to the tournament.

“We make it to regionals pretty frequently. I can’t remember the last time we didn’t…. Our season has been up and down. We were able to string together some wins throughout the season. We played in some pretty hard tournaments against some pretty good competition. It prepped us for conferences and regionals.”

Five teams participated in PACI’s conference tournament; the PACI Golden Bears, Creighton Kodiaks, Ahtahkakoop Chiefs, Rhoda Hardlotte Memorial Keethanow High School (RHMKHS, Stanley Mission) Northern Braves and Senator Myles Venne (SMVS) Huskies.

The first game took place on Mar. 8 at 5:45pm between the Ahtahkakoop Chiefs and the SMVS Huskies. The Chiefs won the tipoff. The Huskies quickly started to dominate both keys, offence and defence. By the end of the first quarter the Huskies were up by seven points 17-10.

In the second period, the Chiefs made a comeback, but it was not enough to tie up the score. At the end of the second period, both teams racked up four team fouls each, but the Huskies still held the lead, 36-33.

The Huskies started to heat up in the third period, finishing it 57-37. During the third period, PACI’s best defence, a cage for the stage lights, blocked a shot from the Chiefs. Many teams throughout PACI’s history have been blocked by the stage lights, due to the small gym size and low ceiling.

The top scorer for the Chiefs was No. 19 Kain Ahenakew with 22 points, and the Huskies No. 21 Zy Roberts with 31 points.

In the fourth period, both teams started to have fun and showed good sportsmanship between them. The Huskies won 78- 52, advancing to the 11:00 am game against the Creighton Kodiaks on Saturday. In an interview, Chiefs Head Coach Bryce McCallum says he is not disappointed in the outcome of the game, and he enjoys just seeing his team play.

“The guys all had fun. They haven’t had a basketball team on the reserve for about 4 years. There’s a lot of learning going on. Each game, even though they lost a lot of games, they’re always in good spirits. It’s awesome being around that energy. They don’t care if they lose, they’re always very positive about it.”

At 11:00 am on Saturday, game two started between the SMVS Huskies and the Creighton Kodiaks.

The Kodiaks started to press a full court man-on-man which frustrated the Huskies. In the end of the first period, the Kodiaks started their lead against the Huskies 34-11. In the second quarter, both teams struggled to put a lot of points up. By the end of second period, the Kodiaks were still continuing their 41-25 lead.

In the second half of the game, the Kodiaks gained momentum and the Huskies were unable to break  it and make a comeback. The Kodiaks beat the Huskies 101-53, advancing to the playoff game, and the regional tournament as one of the top two qualifiers in the conference tournament. Despite the final score both teams showed good sportsmanship.

The top scorers for the Kodiaks were No. 5 Ronan Hlady with 23 points, and No. 7 Leland Feurstein following close behind with 22 points. For the Huskies, No. 10 George Halkett scored 20 points for his team.

Head Coach Lorne Charles of the SMVS Huskies said in an interview with the Daily Herald, that he is glad his team got to play. Charles said that his team will practice more and play hard next season.

“My boys felt pretty good about it. They don’t get to compete a lot, like Creighton does. I think they did the best that they could. They had fun, enjoyed the game, (and) had a good time out there. That’s all they wanted…. Our season has been pretty slow because we live in northern Saskatchewan. We don’t get a lot of time to travel and go on leagues and compete with other (teams). In the north, I think we have only two other teams to compete with and that’s about it. We don’t get a lot of play time. Other than that, we just do our best. Practice, (and) play when we can.”

The captain of the SMVS Huskies, No. 22 Brayden Ratt, said in interview that he is sad about their loss and their season ending. Brayden is a grade 12 at Senator Myles Venne School. He has played basketball for 7 years with the Huskies.

“I am pretty sad that we lost, and we’ll be going home tonight. I really thought that we would have them. We didn’t have the opportunity to score on them, (because) they had big guys. We have big guys too but they had better opportunities. Probably next time we’ll get them…. This is my last year. I’m not going to leave them. I’ll probably come back to coach these guys. I know I won’t be able to play but I don’t want to leave this team. Coaching will be next year.”

Game 3 started at 12:45 p.m. between the Prince Albert Collegiate (PACI) Golden Bears and the Rhoda Hardlotte Memorial Keethanow High School (RHMKHS) Northern Braves from Stanley Mission. The game’s momentum went back and fourth in the first half, but in the second half the Bears would raise the intensity. The Bears worked hard for their 66-43 win against the Braves. Their win advanced them to the next game and to the regional tournament as a top two qualifier.

The top scorer for the Braves was No. 14 Edmond Natomagan with 15 points, and the Bears #8 Keagan Elliott with 26 points.

The final game started at 4:45 p.m. between the Kodiaks and the Golden Bears. The Kodiaks won the tipoff. The Kodiaks started the game with their full court man press. By 5 minutes in the first period, the Kodiaks doubled the Bears’ points 10-5. With 38.4 seconds left in the first period, the Bears had the foul bonus. The Kodiaks finished the period in the lead 22-13.

In the second period, the Kodiaks used 2 timeouts to break the Bears’ momentum. By the end of the second period, the Kodiaks were still up 57-25. The second half of the game, the Kodiaks stopped pressing the Bears, but that was not enough for the Bears to make their comeback. The Kodiaks took their victory against the Bears 85-43.

The top scorer for the Bears was No. 8 Keagan Elliott with 18 points. Ronan Hlady No. 5 for the Kodiaks finished the game with 26 points.

The top two teams from this tournament will move on to regionals. The Kodiaks placed first in this conference, which will give them a better seed in the regional tournament. The Golden Bears also advanced to the regional tournament, despite their loss.