Tenacious Knights dig up home silver
Basketball: Chestermere spoils Classic HTA win
Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 06:00 am
An Okotoks school found a silver lining when it traded blows with some of the province’s best teams at its annual basketball showcase.
The Holy Trinity Academy (HTA) Knights earned a rare win over a top-10 team when they dispatched the St. Albert Skyhawks 54-49 en route to an eventual silver medal finish in the 17th Knights Classic Senior boys basketball tournament on Jan. 11.
“That was the whole focus going into the tournament, we were hoping to be able to get into that game because we knew St. Albert was ranked number-six in the province,” said Knights head coach Sam Aiello. “It was a great game and we just gutted it out at the end.
“We’ve beaten an honourable mention (team) a few times in the last few years, but we haven’t beaten a top-10 in a couple years. That was huge for our guys, especially for our young team to believe they can compete at that level.”
The Knights carried a modest 22-18 lead into halftime before taking control of the contest with a sublime third quarter highlighted by a 13-4 run to start the half.
Dynamite point-guard Dylan Wheeler bookended the terrific quarter by beating the buzzer by driving the lane for a highlight-reel lay-up to give the Knights a commanding 46-32 advantage heading into the final 10 minutes.
The six-ranked Skyhawks shook off the late basket and mounted a gallant comeback in the fourth quarter via a 14-4 run behind the paint presence of post Andrew Salcedo, who finished with a game-high 26-points.
St. Albert clawed its way back to a 50-47 deficit with less than two minutes on the clock before Wheeler stepped up to nail a clutch three-pointer and Nate Wall stuffing a Skyhawk on their next possession to help seal the gutsy five-point win.
“It had its ups and downs. Our lead in the start had us going for the fourth quarter,” said Knights guard Kade McCormick. “When gold was that close it was easy to fight that extra quarter just to be able to get to the final.
“We try to play a tough game and I think we did that really well this weekend.”
Wheeler finished with a team-high 21-points with Nate Wall providing a big spark off the bench in a 10-point effort from the six-foot-six post.
HTA’s gold medal pursuit would be halted by the vaunted Chestermere Lakers in the tournament final with the sharp-shooting visitors earning the 73-49 win.
“Chestermere were strong and they were fast and really smart with the ball,” McCormick said. “They penetrated to the basket better than we did, which is pretty much why they beat us.
“The biggest thing was getting to play against some of the top teams in the province for 3A. It was good to have a chance to go head-to-head against them.”
The fourth-ranked Lakers edged the Winston Churchill Bulldogs 86-82 in an overtime thriller in the other semifinal.
“They were better than us for sure… they shot the ball well, played great defence,” Aiello said. “No excuses, we were tired from that afternoon game (vs. St. Albert), but that can’t be an excuse because Chestermere went into overtime in their semifinal game, too.
McCormick was named the Knights’ tournament all- star in recognition of his hustle and tenacity at both ends of the court.
“Kade really stood out with a tonne of hustle plays in the championship game,” said Aiello of McCormick, a transfer student from High River. “He’s an absolutely phenomenal kid, a great all-around athlete, great work ethic, good attitude. He’s a great student in the class. We’re so lucky and fortunate to have him come to our school.”
HTA started the tournament off in fine form with a 91-39 romp over the Brooks Buffalos as five Knights hit double digits. Wheeler led the way with 16, Nick Villarreal and Wall poured in 12 and McCormick and Chad Wheeler each chipped in with 10 points.
“All our guys got lots of minutes in that first game and everybody played in the championship game,” Aiello said. “Overall it was just a good team weekend for us to build together a little closer.
“Hopefully it will pay off in the end.”
The Knights enjoy a brief hiatus from league play with their next Foothills Athletic Council tip-off on Feb. 3 when they host the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans.
For the full list of schedules and results go to foothillsathletics.ca