The Strathmore High School Spartans senior girls basketball squad cake-walked their way to the school’s second 3A South Central Zone championship at Highwood High School last weekend.
“We went into every game hoping to play our best and we managed to come out with the win, and that’s all that matters,” said Ffyona Gibson-Smith.
The Spartans dumped the Bert Church High School Chargers 66-58 in the final in front of a loud, travelling group of fans from Strathmore.
“It was a pretty tight game early, they jumped out to an early lead and we battled our way back and led by 10 at halftime,” said Spartans head coach Dion Galandy. “We maintained a 10 to 12 point lead the rest of the way. All the pressure was on Bert Church. I just kept reminding them, ‘hurry, but don’t rush.’ We kept working hard and played with intensity.”
For the Spartans, it’s the school’s first 3A zone championship since the 2013-2014 season.
In the semis, the Spartans sank the Springbank High School Phoenix 55-25.
The Spartans were rewarded with a home game to open zones, as they dumped the Bow Valley Bobcats 60-46 at Strathmore High School.
The Spartans entered the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association provincials last ranked as an honorable mention – an underdog, if you will.
The tourney kicked off March 16.
Last time Galandy took a crew to provincials, they were knocked out of contention in the quarterfinals. His message this time around was simple: “We have nothing to lose. The pressure is on everyone else, which works in our favour. We are going to go in relaxed, play our games, because you never know what might happen.”
According to Gibson-Smith, the goal was to make it to provincials.
“Now that we have made it, our goal is to go out, play hard and see what we can make out of it,” said Le May. “At the end of the day, it’s about playing hard and doing the best we can.”
Entering provincials ranked 10th, the Spartans took on the No. 7 ranked Strathcona Christian Academy Eagles March 16. If they won their opening game, they then battled the No. 2 ranked Monsignor McCoy High School Colts March 17.
Spartan boys miss out
On the guys side, The Canmore High School Crusaders dumped the Spartans in the opener 77-56, but a late three-pointer from Jackson Howatt sunk the Spartans provincial hopes for good.
Playing at home with two provincial berths up for grabs, the Spartans were 30 seconds away from the final.
Rebounding from their opening round loss to the Crusaders, the Spartans eliminated the No. 10 ranked Bert Church High School Chargers 77-69 on March 10.
The Spartans opened up the game with the three ball in the second half, with big shots. Mackenzie Bain knocked down four triples, finishing with 17 points, and John Le May poured in one triple, to finish with 23 points. Caleb Funk finished his high school career strong, recording 17 points in the consolation quarterfinals.
Funk was also a beast down low and brought the Spartans within one, 85-84, with less than a 30 seconds remaining against the Crusaders in the consolation semifinals.
Needing to foul, the Spartans caught a lucky break as the Crusaders clanked both of their free throws. After grabbing the rebound, the Spartans fumbled the ball up the court, evaporating valuable seconds from the clock that they could have used to get a cleaner look at the buzzer.
“That’s the way these things go sometimes,” said Spartans head coach Matt Laslo. “Sometimes they don’t go our way. It was a great season and we saved our best basketball for zones and that’s all I could have asked from our guys.”
Funk dumped in 15 points, Le May supplied 32 and Mackenzie Bain added 12 in the loss.
The Brooks Composite High School Buffalos (No. 4) and the George McDougall High School Mustangs (No. 3) clinched the two provincial berths.