Theo Farough eyes up a pass in a Neelin Spartans varsity boys’ basketball team practice earlier this week. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Quinton Hunter passes the ball in practice. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
It’s been five years since the Neelin Spartans have won a provincial high school AAA varsity boys’ basketball championship, but they appear to be in good shape to end that drought this weekend in Winnipeg.
The Brandon High School Basketball League champions come into the provincial championship tournament, which opens today and wraps up on Saturday, as the second seed. However, the team isn’t focusing on where they’re seeded or how they’ve played going into the event. Instead, they’re taking everything one quarter at a time.
"We’re a pretty focused group on the first 10 minutes that happens tomorrow," Neelin head coach Don Thomson said before the team left for Winnipeg last night. "Our goal is to win 12 10-minute games. If we can win 12 10-minute games, then we’ve reached a goal we’ve set for a long time for ourselves."
Neelin will have a tough start to its quest for a provincial title. It’s opening game is against the St. John’s Ravenscourt Eagles, and the two teams had quite a battle against each other in the Neelin Invitational Tournament semifinal in January. The Spartans jumped out to an early advantage, but barely hung on for a 51-45 victory.
Like every other team Neelin will face this weekend, the Spartans will have to deal with being undersized as only three of their players — Brandon Williams, Mason Waddell-Hodgson and Theo Farough — are listed as being more than six feet tall.
"(St. John’s Ravenscourt) has two kids who are real key kids, both grade 11s," Thomson said. "One is 6-foot-3 and a big physical presence underneath, which gives us a little bit of a matchup problem. The other is a wiry 6-foot-4 guard that can shoot it really well and is extremely athletic. Two kids we need to key on for sure."
Neelin will have a bit of experience on its side with seven players in Grade 12 including Farough, the team’s leading scorer and captain.
Farough said he will do everything he can to help the Spartans get back on top of the AAA boys’ division, but has mixed emotions about playing in his final high school provincial championship tournament.
"You go in knowing it’s your last shot at it, but you have to go in fearless knowing that it’s not the outcome that matters, it’s what led up to it and you have to enjoy the experience," he said.
The AAA girls’ provincial tournament is also being held in Winnipeg from today through Saturday. Virden is the lone Westman representative in the event.
Meanwhile, the provincial AA basketball championships will be held at The Pas this week. Killarney, Minnedosa and Goose Lake (Roblin) are in the boys’ event, while Boissevain, Elton, Souris and Major Pratt (Russell) are in the girls’ event. Both start today and wrap up on Saturday.
Hamiota, Glenboro, Treherne and Ste. Rose will be battling for the A girls’ title in Treherne this weekend. The A boys’ provincial championship will be held in Glenboro, with the field including teams from Hamiota and Glenboro.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 14, 2013