The Strathmore High School took a few minutes before tipoff of the South Central Zone 3A basketball championships to recognize their graduating class.
The Spartans senior girls squad’s zone championships took place in High River, but they opened the tourney with one final home game, as they took on the Bow Valley High School Bobcats.
Prior to the game, a speech prepared by head coach Dion Galandy and assistant Leslie Larson was read, as the girls were presented with framed photos, reflecting their time with the Spartans.
Words such as focused, positivity, determination, coachability and talented, were used to describe their time together.
It was an emotional moment for power forward Tatum Wathen, who began to tear up after the game at just the thought of graduating the basketball program.
“It’s really sad, I don’t want the season to be over,” said Wathen. “It was really nice of them to honour us like that and bring closure to our career.”
Wathen had a great season on the glass for the Spartans, crashing the boards on every opportunity; she was one of the top rebounders.
Next year, she plans on attending Mount Royal University (MRU), where she will begin working on her bachelor of communications with a major in public relations. Helping the transition to university will be her roommate and fellow grad Ffyona Gibson-Smith, who will enter the education program.
Gibson-Smith was one of the more aggressive drivers on the Spartans. Whenever the threes weren’t falling, she would take the ball in transition, carving her way to the tin for an easy bucket.
Pacey Strangling Wolf will also be attending MRU and will study criminal justice.
“We were a pretty close-knit group,” said Strangling Wolf. “Nobody got left out and we all had the same goal of working hard and wanting to win. This was a nice way to end our high school career.”
None of the three think they will play for the Cougars, but if they choose to team up, they would make quite the formidable intramural squad.
Brianna Kennedy only spent one year with the Spartans after moving from Athabasca. She was the Spartans dead-red shooter from downtown and hopes her hoop dreams aren’t over yet.
“It’s tough, I want to keep playing basketball, but I also want to go to the [University of Calgary] to become a doctor,” said Kennedy. “I have some time still, I will try and figure it out.”
The Spartans rode off into the sunset with a 60-46 win in their final game on home turf.
The senior boys program also recognized their graduating players before getting their zone tournament underway.
The group of graduating athletes has succeeded in several sports at SHS; playing football, volleyball, basketball and running cross-country.
Head coach Matt Laslo will have his hands full trying to replace seven seniors next season.
Presented with a framed picture of some of their highlights, Mackenzie Bain, Caleb Funk, Jonathan Le May, Connor McBean, J.J. Pelly, Isaiah Simwamu and Isaac Wegner will all be moving on next year.
“The seniors were huge factors down the stretch and we needed them to be this weekend,” said Laslo. “It’s really cool to have a group that has played together for three years that you can rely on in a big game and just leave them out there.”
One of the grads, Bain, has been a spot-up shooter for the Spartans, drilling big threes when called upon. He was thrilled to have his high school career end at the place where it all began.
“Having zones here has probably been the highlight for me,” said Bain. “The fans are always great here and I’m just so glad to end my career at home in these big games.”
Bain is still sorting out his path for next season, but has been in contact with a few post-secondary schools in B.C. and will take general sciences until he figures things out.
Le May has been one of the most reliable scorers on the roster. He can either break out a variety of moves, spinning, backing defenders down in the paint, or stepping out to splash a three.
“It meant a lot to me and the other guys to be recognized like that,” said Le May. “We have been going to school for a while now together, it was touching to have our school honour us like that.”
Le May will take the next two years and embark on an LDS mission, spreading the word of his religion around the world, with hopes of returning one day, picking up basketball in the college ranks.
The Spartans were eliminated from zones in a thrilling semifinal game against the Canmore Collegiate High School Crusaders, losing 85-84.