Knights come of age
Basketball: HTA just misses podium at provincials
Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014 10:48 am
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights went from being a good young team to being just a flat-out good team during the course of the Senior boys basketball season.
The Knights just missed getting a medal at the 3A Alberta championships when they were beaten 67-61 by the W.R. Myers Rebels from Taber Saturday in the third-place game in Lethbridge.
“At the start of the season I thought we had some potential but I wasn’t sure if our youth would be able to handle the rigours of a Senior boys high school season,” said Knights head coach Sam Aiello.
“Coming down the stretch something clicked with them and they really started to play well.
“We finished beyond our expectations and that is always a good thing.”
The fifth-seed Knights opened the tournament with a convincing 102-75 victory over the 12th seed the Queen Elizabeth Knights. Nate Wall led the HTA charge against their namesakes with 27 points.
The victory set up a showdown against the well-rested Ponoka Broncs who had received a bye as the no. 4 seed.
The Broncs lived up to their namesake in the opening minutes — coming out of the chutes hard.
Ponoka built up a 12-0 lead with four unanswered three point field goals. The Knights finally got on the board when point guard Dylan Wheeler hit a pair for free throws to cut the lead to 12-2. The Knights trimmed the lead to 43-38 at half-time and with only 10 minutes left, were down just a basket at 61-59.
Then Wheeler decided to do some long range shooting.
“Dylan just really took over in the fourth quarter and that just sparked us,” Aiello said. “We got the lead with about three minutes left and we just stretched it out from there.”
The Knights Grade 11 point guard didn’t see a hole in the Broncs’ zone defence – he just shot over the zone. Wheeler hit a pair of threes in the fourth quarter for six of his game high 32 points.
“I knew we had to score so I shot the ball and I got lucky and it went in,” said Wheeler, who had four three-point field goals in the 82-75 victory.
Grade 10 guard Jared Helinsky finished with 14 points, including a pair of three-point field goals.
The Knights then drew the Chestermere Lakers, who are just slightly below the L.A. “Showtime” Lakers, this year in the provincial semifinal. Chestermere went into the tournament as the no. 1 ranked 3A team in Alberta. The Lakers had beat the Knights by 20 the week before in the South Central final.
“I told them this is provincial and you have been proving yourself all year — that there is no pressure and we have nothing to lose,” Aiello said. “We were only down by five by halftime.”
The Lakers, who went on to win the provincial banner, turned it up a notch as Chestermere’s shooting star Charn Gill started raining threes.
“We did a good job of containing him in the first half, but like a good team they made adjustments and got him open in the low corner,” Aiello said. “He’s a great player and he just made some great shots.”
Gill had 11 thee-point shots — eight in the second half — in amassing 39 points. Wheeler had 15 points for HTA, while Kade McCormick chipped in with eight.
The loss dropped the Knights to the bronze medal game against the Rebels.
The Knights had a slim 49-47 lead after three quarters, but ran into foul trouble late in the game.
“Right near the end, W.R. Myers makes a crucial three and we came back down, had a good look and our three-shot rimmed out,” Aiello said. “We had to foul at the end and they ended up winning by six.”
The only team with a brighter future than the Knights might be the Wildrose Party.
The Knights lose three of character players to graduation in Chad Reeh, Chad Wheeler and their High River diamond-in-the-rough McCormick.
However, the core of their team is back for the 2014-15 season.
While captain Dylan Wheeler is looking forward to next year, he’s also pretty darned pleased with the past five months.
“This has been my favourite basketball season of my career,” said the Grade 11 Wheeler . “I got the chance to play with my brother (Chad) and we (the team) exceeded all expectations.”