‘Saders set for Hoopla

The Carlton Crusaders senior girls basketball team strikes a pose for a selfie after winning their home tournament in early March 2018. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Carlton’s senior girls basketball team to play Regina Riffel in opening game

The Carlton Crusaders senior girls basketball team is headed to Hoopla for the third consecutive year.

The only difference is this year they have a chance to play for a provincial title on their home court; Prince Albert is hosting the province-wide high school basketball tournament, which runs from Thursday through to Saturday this week.

The 5A girls’ final game is slated for Saturday at 5 p.m. in the gym at Carlton’s Physical Activity Centre; the 5A boys teams will play their final game in the same gym at 7 p.m.

To get to the provincial tournament, the Crusaders placed first this past weekend in a regional qualifying tournament held in Weyburn for 5A senior girls teams.

Given the team’s regular season record, it earned a bye into the semifinals of regionals; the Crusaders beat the Notre Dame Hounds 84-56 on Saturday morning to advance to the final game of regionals.

Just qualifying for that final game earned the team a berth in Hoopla.

They did one better, by winning the final game 83-49 against North Battleford Comprehensive high school.

Now set to play in Hoopla starting on Thursday, grade 12s Payton Izsak and MacKenzie Emmerson are relishing the chance to win a provincial title; they’ve both been on the senior team since grade 9.

In retrospect, they both agreed that the semifinal game against Notre Dame was considerably more stressful than the final game. Part of that had to do with the prospect of qualifying for Hoopla, and part of it had to do with never before seeing the Hounds play.

“The night before I hardly got any sleep. I kept thinking basketball, which kept me awake,” Emmerson said. “Once the game started and we got in our rhythm, (my nerves) settled a bit. But it never felt like a 30-point game. It didn’t feel like we could relax at any point.”

As for the final game, Izsak said that because both teams knew they qualified for the provincial tournament, each one seemed to play with a little less intensity. “It’s not that we thought that game was going to be any easier. I think (qualifying) just took some of the pressure off.”

Carlton Crusaders guard Gage Grassick (5) defends against Aden Bowman Bears post Ashley Desousa-Martins (15) during Carlton high school’s tournament final on March 3, 2018. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Thinking about the pressure of playing in their home gym, the two veterans agreed it’s their job to help calm the nerves of some of the team’s younger players.

“Even when we’re really nervous, we can’t really show it as much. I try to put my nerves aside and help settle others on our team,” Emmerson said.

Izsak agreed, adding that she’s excited by the prospect of home-court advantage. “We’ve been to Hoopla before, but we’ve never played in our gym with all of our own fans.

“So I think that’s a really exciting part of this year, knowing that we’ll have so many more people rooting for us than we have in the past. (They’ll) actually be there live, cheering and wearing red.”

Of the Crusaders’ 12 players, only three have never played in a Hoopla tournament before, grade 10 students Abby Larson, Sydney Hobson and Bria Howden.

Along with Izsak’s and Emmerson’s energy, the team is headed by its reasonable, balanced coach, Jenn Ferguson.

She’s preaching a business-like attitude that teaches her team to focus only on one game at a time.

“The only game we’re worried about is Riffel,” Ferguson said. “If we get past that one, then we’ll worry about Aden Bowman or (Regina’s) O’Neill … the one thing we’ve been talking about is, it’s not that our wins and losses are going to be determined by the other team. They’re going to be determined by what we do on the court.

“As much or as little as we focus on Riffel, more will be what we do in practice this week to get ready to play our style of basketball.”

The Crusaders play their first Hoopla game on Thursday at 7:45 p.m. at Calrton’s CPAC gym against the Regina Riffel Royals.

The winner of that game qualifies for the semifinal game, which is set for Friday at 6 p.m., to be played at St. Mary high school.

The winner of the quarterfinal game between the Saskatoon Aden Bowman Bears and the Regina O’Neill Titans will be the other opponent in that semifinal game.

5A teams qualified for Hoopla

Who’s qualified in the 5A category this year for Hoopla? The following list shows the 5A boys and girls teams competing for a provincial title.

  • Girls teams

Regina representatives: (1) Leboldus Golden Suns, (2) O’Neill Titans, (3) Riffel Royals

The Golden Suns beat the Titans 87-54 in the Regina city final, while the Royals won the third-place game 85-75 against Campbell.

Saskatoon representatives: (1) Aden Bowman Bears, (2) St. Joseph Guardians, (3) Centennial Chargers

Aden Bowman beat St. Joseph 63-61 to capture Saskatoon’s city championship, while Centennial beat out Walter Murray 78-71 for third place.

Regional representatives: (1) Prince Albert Carlton Crusaders, (2) North Battleford Comprehensive Vikings

The Crusaders beat the Vikings 83-49 to win the regional title and earn a first-place seed at Hoopla. Meanwhile, to qualify, the Vikings beat Prince Albert’s St. Mary Marauders 65-40 in the semifinal.

  • Boys teams

Regina representatives: (1) Campbell Tartans, (2) Leboldus Golden Suns, (3) Winston Knoll Wolverines

The Tartans beat the Golden Suns 76-53 to capture the city title, while the Wolverines edged the Luther Lions 84-82 to win third place.

Saskatoon representatives: (1) St. Joseph Guardians, (2) Marion Graham Falcons, (3) Holy Cross Crusaders

St. Joseph topped Marion Graham 91-68 for a first-place finish and the city title, while Holy Cross nabbed third place after beating Evan Hardy 78-62.

Regional representatives: (1) Yorkton Regional Raiders, (2) North Battleford Comprehensive Vikings

The Raiders edged the Vikings 88-83 to win the boys regional title last weekend in Warman.

For a schedule of Hoopla games, please see the Friday print edition of the Daily Herald, or go online to paherald.sk.ca on March 23. You can also access and download the tournament’s full schedule online at shsaa.ca.