On the heels of their win at the Arctic Shoot-Out earlier this month, the Deton Cho Eagles girls high performance basketball team went to Edmonton last weekend to try and make it two in a row.
They very nearly did just that.
The girls came out with the runners-up trophy from the Volvo 120 Hoops Showcase’s U17 silver division after dropping a 56-28 decision to the Legends U17 squad from Lethbridge, Alta. It was the only game of the weekend where the result wasn’t decided by four points or less.
They began pool play against the Fort St. John Flight from B.C. and managed to eke out a 55-52 win in a game which head coach Aaron Wells said should have been a bit easier to win.
“I don’t know why but we always seem to struggle out of the gate,” he said. “We got down early but built up a good lead down the stretch and we got it.”
The girls had to hold off a late push from the Flight in the closing moments of the second half, he added.
Next up was the Rise U17 outfit from Saskatchewan, which was another tight one, but the girls held on for a 44-40 win.
Wells said it was a much better game from his team that time out.
“We switched our defence around to a full-court press in spots to try and catch them and we did,” he said. “We got ourselves an eight-point lead and they ended up having to foul us down the stretch so we made sure to get our shooters out on the floor and our players who could handle the ball.”
With first place in the pool locked up, it was off to the championship round, where the Eagles took on Pride Ouellette from Spruce Grove, Alta., in the semifinal and like the pool play, that one was a nip-and-tuck affair which wasn’t the highest-scoring game ever seen but still a win for the Eagles nonetheless, 37-35.
“It was a battle between two really good defensive teams,” said Wells. “I think our speed really helped up in that one. We were able to get some fast-breaks, which got us some easy lay-ups.”
Pride had one last good chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds as they managed to intercept an inbound. After a timeout, a Pride player drove to the hoop for the tying bucket but Mali Straker took a charge, forcing a turnover and allowing the Eagles to kill the remaining time on the clock.
Wells said seeing Straker take the charge was a proud moment for him as a coach.
“Anyone that has ever played for me knows I spend a lot of time focusing on the defensive end of the floor,” he said. “I ask athletes to put their body on the line for the team and some athletes buy into taking charges while others are tentative. Mali was one of the tentative ones and I think this might have been her first charge all year and it came at the absolute perfect time.”
In the final, the Eagles went up against, without question, the strongest team of the entire division, a team that won all of its games by more than 40 points leading up to the final.
Wells said his girls made a game of it in the first half but took a backward step in the second half.
“We made a push to get the deficit down to about seven at halftime,” he said. “We just came out flat at the start of the second half and they went on a big run to take the lead. We tried to get into a three-two zone defence with about 10 minutes to go to see if we could get something going but it didn’t work.”
Part of the problem, he added, was that his team was only get one shot on most possessions.
“We weren’t getting a lot of second-chance shots,” he said. “We’re normally a good three-point shooting team and they just shut us down.”
The championship game was the last one of the club season for the Eagles and it was also the last club game for Meadow Munroe and Emma Willoughby, both of who are graduating from the club and moving on to university next year.
“It was an emotional time after that last game,” said Wells.
The focus for a majority of the girls on the team now turns to preparing for the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask., this coming August.
Wells said the practices will begin on June 17.