Knights climb Wall to provincials

Basketball: HTA ends seven-year drought

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Tuesday, Mar 18, 2014 03:18 pm

Holy Trinity Knight Dylan Wheeler puts up a shot over Cochrane Cobra Milton Singeris in their 66-59 victory March 15 in Olds.
Holy Trinity Knight Dylan Wheeler puts up a shot over Cochrane Cobra Milton Singeris in their 66-59 victory March 15 in Olds.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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A shot from the Great Wall has the Holy Trinity Academy Knights going to the provincials for the first time in six years.

The Knights downed the Cochrane Cobras 66-59 in the second-place game March 15 at the South Central Senior boys high school basketball championships in Olds to advance to provincials March 20-22.

HTA’s rangy 6-foot-5 Nate Wall broke a 59-59 tie when he canned a three-point shot with 25 seconds left to put HTA up for good at 62-59.

“I had an idea that it might have to be me because they were covering Dylan (HTA point guard Dylan Wheeler) because he was having such a big game,” said the Grade 11 Wall. “When it went in, I have never had that kind of feeling in my life.”

The Cobras then came down and missed a three-point shot and were forced to foul a Knight. They ended up fouling Wheeler.

Expecting Wheeler to miss a foul shot is like hoping for a rooster to miss a sunrise. Wheeler canned a pair of free throws to give the Knights a 64-59 with nine seconds left.

“It was so surreal at that moment —I knew I had to make it to seal the game,” Wheeler said after the victory.

He credits Wall for making the big shot.

“Somehow the screens didn’t work and when I got the ball I saw Nate pop out and I got him the ball,” Wheeler said. “There was no question that he was going to make that shot.”

It didn’t look like the Knights would need a last minute shot in the opening moments of the game.

The Knights took an early 9-2 lead, but the Cobras dominated the first half building up a 38-28 halftime lead thanks to the sharp-shooting of Kyle Moortgat who had 19 first half points. HTA made some adjustments, and Moortgat was held to five points in the final 20 minutes.

“He is a great-shooter and we knew that coming in and we decided to play him man-to-man in the first half,” Knights head coach Sam Aiello said. “In the second-half we switched to a half-court press with a zone to try to disrupt their rhythm.”

HTA was able to cut the lead to 51-48 by the end of the third quarter.

The Knights would tie the game at 56-56 on a dipsy-doodle reverse layup by Wheeler with about six minutes left. At that point, someone put Saran Wrap over the baskets.

A hoop wasn’t made until Cochrane’s Jake Nielson canned a three-pointer to give the Cobras a 59-56 lead with 1:30 left.

The Knights didn’t wait too long to answer. They came right back down the floor and Wheeler got the most important of his game high 28 points, with a three-pointer from about Torrington.

Cochrane coach Kris Nielson said the Cobras lost their legs in the second half.

“We had to play five games and that’s a challenge,” Nielson said. “Fatigue caught up with us and the shots weren’t falling.”

The Cobras had to beat Canmore earlier in the day to advance to the second-place game.

The Knights opened the tournament by downing the Springbank Phoenix at HTA March 12 to advance to the tournament semifinal. They trimmed the Canmore Crusaders 73-70 when Grade 10 guard Jared Helinsky hit a three-pointer at the buzzer March 14.

It was a crucial victory.

Had they lost, they would have had to go on the consolation side —meaning the Knights would have to win three in a row to get the second-place invite to provincials.

The Knights were thumped in the final by the Chestermere Lakers — the no. 1 3A team in the province — 93-59. However, thanks to Helinsky’s three-point shot, they got a bye to the two-three game against Cochrane.

The Knights appearance at provincials this weekend at Winston Churchill High School in Lethbridge is their first trip to the big show since 2008, when they lost to Chestermere in the gold medal game. The Knights are the no. 5 seed in the 12-team tournament. They open against the No. 12 seed Queen Elizabeth Knights from Calgary Thursday night.

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