Spartans basketball tips off in tourney play

By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter

The man in charge of Strathmore High School is now in charge of the senior girls basketball program.
Principal Kyle Larson has taken over the reins for the senior program, joining his wife Leslie, as their daughter and starting point guard plays out her final year with the Spartans.
Last year’s head coach, Dion Galandy, has slid over to coach the boys program at Crowther Memorial Junior High School, as his son is eligible to play for the Cougars.
“I’ve always coached, but it hasn’t been at the same school where I work,” said Kyle. “As principal, it was tough to coach at another school, so I am looking forward to working with this team this year.”
Kyle takes over a team that won the South Central Zone championship last year and entered the Alberta School’s Athletic Association provincials as the 10th seed, only to lose both matches.
“The goal is obviously to get back to provincials, but we have to be competitive in our zone first,” said Kyle. “We had some big contributors last year graduate, so right how we are seeing what we got before we make any predictions.”
Graduating last year was lights-out three-point shooter Brianna Kennedy, slashing power forward Ffyona Gibson-Smith, rebounder Pacey Strangling Wolf and Tatum Wathen, who registered a few double-doubles.
“Our strength is going to have to come from our back court,” said Kyle. “We aren’t a big team this year, so we will have to rebound by committee.”
Last weekend was a feeling out process for the Spartans, as they participated in their first tournament in Medicine Hat.
In the opener, the Hawks were thumped by the Eagle Butte High School Talons 40-20. Responding the next morning, the Spartans handed it to the Balfour Collegiate Bears 70-20, but dropped the consolation final 68-53 to the Kate Andrews High School Pride.
“You could tell that we haven’t practiced much,” said Kyle. “It was a good game against Kate Andrews, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
This season, the Spartans have opted out of the Foothills Athletic Council. The league that featured teams from around the Calgary area and only contained a few competitive games and demanded a lot of travel time throughout the work and school week. Instead, the Spartans will only participate in tournament action, highlighted by their home tournament Feb. 16 and 17, as they try to make it back to the provincial tournament.
The road back to provincials will run through Strathmore, as the Spartans will host the South Central Zone tournament March 9-11.
The same crew is back behind the senior boys bench, but what’s different about this year’s team is their size.
Caleb Funk, Jonathan Le May and Mackenzie Bain were three of the seniors last year that graduated, bringing the average height of the starting unit down significantly.
“Our tallest guy is in Grade 10 this year,” said Spartans Head Coach Matt Laslo. “He played awesome this weekend, but he’s still a 15-year-old going up against 17- and 18-year-old kids.”
An injury in the Spartans opening game last weekend to Caleb Wilchowy in Lethbridge shrank Laslo’s big man rotation even more, as they got hammered on the boards and dug themselves deep holes early.
“I think in all three games we went down by at least 20 early,” said Laslo. “The good news is that we were able to cut it to three at times, but it definitely wasn’t one of our best weekends.”
The Spartans opened up the weekend by losing 89-56 to the Holy Trinity Academy Knights Dec. 1 in Lethbridge.
Grade 12 student Ryan Edwards led the way for the Spartans with 15 points. He was the only Spartan to finish in double figures.
Trying to mix in with Edwards and the rest of the returning cast are six new players this year, as Reid Jensen transferred over from Holy Cross Collegiate, along with five players up from the junior varsity program. Cordel Steadman also transferred from HCC, but will play on the junior varsity team.
Early in the morning on Dec. 2, the Spartans fell 77-72 against the Rundle College Cobras. Edwards led the way again with 31 points and a pair of blocks.
The Spartans wrapped up the weekend with a 98-93 loss to the Crescent Heights High School Vikings, where the Spartans were led by Grade 10 student Daniel Mulder with 22 on 10-of-19 shooting. He also finished 3-for-5 from the land beyond over the weekend. Mulder is one of the new players Laslo will be keying on this year as he eyes up a trip to provincials.
Last year, the Spartans lost to the Canmore Collegiate High School Crusaders in the zone semifinal by one. If the Spartans are to reach provincials this year in Cochrane, they are going to have to tighten up their defence a lot more.
“We have a lot of talent,” said Laslo. “We have to learn to play together and get our rotations down on defence and work hard for each other. It should be another good year.”
The Spartans still have a long way to go until then, as they also have dropped out of the FAC, only playing in tournaments, including the Spartan tournament they are cohosting with the girls program in February.
Laslo will look to see an improvement in his team this weekend when they suit up for a tournament in Camrose.