Resiliency is needed when you take on cougars.
The Holy Trinity Academy Knights overcame a rally by Red Deer’s Notre Dame Cougars to win the Father Michael Troy Memorial Basketball Tournament Saturday night in Edmonton.
“We were ahead for pretty much the entire game,” said Knights coach Sam Aiello. “Then with about four minutes left they took the lead at 59-58 and we just came right back at them and scored a couple of quick baskets.”
The Knights took the title with a 69-65 victory.
It was a young Knight with ice flowing in his veins that helped pull out the victory.
Grade 10 rookie Ewan Fuhr canned back-to-back-to-back jump shots to put the Knights ahead to stay.
“I believe he hit three in a row, they were all two-point baskets, but they were just huge,” Aiello said.
Fuhr, who was named the game’s MVP, finished with 13 points. The consistent Kessler Bishop led the Knights with 14 points.
It was déjŕ vu all over again. Fuhr canned a pair of baskets in the final when HTA won their own tourney in January.
The Knights are taking away more than a banner from the Troy tournament — it helps set the tone for the remainder of the season.
“It was good to have one of those games where we have to fight right until the end,” Aiello said.
Tournament MVP, Knights forward Carson McKenzie, agreed.
“They (the Cougars) got ahead but we kept our heads in the game,” said McKenzie, who had 11 points, three assists and seven rebounds in the final. “If you don’t have it, that’s when they are going to pull ahead.
“You just have to keep working. We didn’t lose confidence and just had to keep grinding away at the deficit.”
It was a game of redemption for the Knights.
“I’m just glad we won it for Mr. Aiello,” the Grade 12 student said. “Last year, we went into the final overconfident and lost.”
Knights guard Eli McKitrick had a gutsy performance finishing with eight points in the final. The Grade 12 student had broken his wrist against the Cougs earlier this season.
The Knights advanced to the final by trouncing the Louis St. Laurent Barons 80-44. McKitrick led the Knights with 16 points. The tournament was his first action since returning from the broken wrist.
They opened the tournament with a convincing 99-60 win over the St. Joseph Falcons from Red Deer. Bishop was HTA’s top gunner with 19 points.
McKenzie admitted tourney MVPs usually go to the high scorers like Bishop and point guard Matt Scharien.
“I just worked hard on defence and my rebounding and helped the team out with assists when I can,” McKenzie said. “I think it was my hustle that they recognized.
“I thought these games were the best ones I have played ever.”
McKenzie won a Jostens ring, which he gets to design. However, his plans for the ring got dumped quicker than tea at the famed Boston party.
“I was thinking if the Patriots won I would get one sort of like the Patriots,” said McKenzie, a Matt-Damon-like Pats fan. “So, I will have to make one with the Knights logo on it.”
The Knights have played in the Troy tournament for 13 straight years, this is the third time they have won the tournament.
HTA had some familiar faces that looked a little green around the gills cheering them on.
“We had alumni, who came up for the finals and they had their faces painted, it was really neat to see,” Aiello said.
Those alumni included Ethan Miller, Anthony Cave, Chase Casavant, Ethan Gertken, Chad Reeh and the Knights’ ultimate supporter Spencer Draper.
The Knights have a showdown with the much-improved Notre Dame Timberwolves Feb. 7 in High River in a game for first-place in the Foothills Athletic Council. The “Wolves are coached by former HTA Knight power forward Jeff Roman, who is now a phys ed teacher at the school.