The Neelin Spartans went a perfect 3-0 in the inaugural New Year’s Basketball Classic, hosted by the Brandon University Bobcats.
Neelin capped its perfect run in the varsity girls division on Saturday with a 73-38 win over the Garden City Fighting Gophers on Saturday morning and followed with a 50-44 victory over the Sturgeon Heights Huskies in the evening. Even though the team went undefeated through the event, head coach Don Thomson felt his team still has lots of room to improve before the Spartans open the Westman High School Basketball League on Tuesday when they host the Vincent Massey Vikings at 6 p.m.
"It was a roller coaster," he said. "We were up and down and we kind of went with our fitness level right now, which is good but not good enough. Defensively I thought we were real solid at times and really non-existent at times. As a group, if we don’t defend well then we’re going to struggle."
Kristine Ward and Paige Thomson both put up 15 points for the Spartans against the Huskies, with Robelie Aaron leading Sturgeon Heights with nine. Thomson had 25 points against Garden City, while Riianna Rumbaua had 18 for the Gophers.
The thing Thomson liked most about the event is it gave his team some games to play during the Christmas break.
Massey head coach Brett Nohr agrees with that assessment as he feels his team started to play itself into shape. The Vikings finished the event with a 1-2 record after losing their final game 60-58 to Thompson’s R.D. Parker Trojans. Adrianna Proulx led the Trojans with 17 points, while Tara VanCauwenberghe had 14 for the Vikings.
Despite posting a losing record, Nohr feels his team learned a lot.
"Coach (Jerry) Hemmings had a great quote. He said ‘I’d much rather lose a close game than win a 40-point blowout.’ You learn from close games," Nohr said. "You have a two-point loss and a five-point loss and you learn from those things. What did we do wrong or what can we do different and you see good things happening."
Meanwhile, the Crocus Plainsmen finished with a 2-2 record after posting a 54-45 victory over the Boissevain Broncos and a 49-24 loss to the Souris Sabres. Desirae Peiffer led Crocus with 13 points against Souris, while Sarah Palsen replied with 21 for the Sabres. Peiffer had 12 points for Crocus against Boissevain, with Sydney Ransom pacing the Broncos with 16 points.
The Plainsmen were a banged-up group by their fourth game, with a lot of nagging injuries. That forced head coach Adam Hartman to go away from his starters for a bit.
"This weekend provided an opportunity for our girls that are new to the team to step in and really contribute," he said. "I feel that a number of girls are playing well above where they were at the start of the year. They worked hard over the last month to work on competing at the varsity level and they’re starting to come in and contribute effective minutes for us, which is really making our team more successful."
Neelin’s Thomson was named an all-star along with Massey’s VanCauwenberghe, Crocus’s Peiffer, Virden’s Heidi Smith, R.D. Parker’s Proulx and Sturgeon Heights’ Aaron.
VanCauwenberghe and Virden’s Logan Biccum received leadership awards worth $1,000 for post-secondary education. They were sponsored by 2 Farm Kids, Bobcats Basketball Academy, Big Bear Custom Cresting and Basketball Manitoba.
In Saturday’s other games:
Virden 78 Sturgeon 48
Smith posted 21 points for the Golden Bears (3-0), while Aaron replied with 19 for the Huskies.
Virden 77 Garden City 22
Smith led the Golden Bears with 22 points. Rumbaua and Raine Richard both had five for the Gophers.
RD Parker 83 Boissevain 34
Proulx’s 18 points led the Trojans, while Ransom had 16 for the Broncos (0-3).
Sisler 68 Virden 66
Nataleigh Bittern led the Spartans in the playoff final with 26 points. Morgan Kobialko paced the Golden Bears with 21.
Bittern was named an all-star along with teammate Liyanah Serapio, Virden’s Kobialko, Massey’s Shayla Heinrichs and R.D. Parker’s Kali Cummings.
Virden 60 Massey 10
Kobialko had 21 for Virden in its semifinal. Kelly Cram had four points for Massey.
Sisler 49 R.D. Parker 24
In the other semifinal, Serapio had 19 points to lead the Spartans. Cummings had eight for the Trojans.
Massey 45 Crocus 31
Jada Benoit paced the Vikings with 12 points, while Bryanna Sutlic had 10 for the Plainsmen in their quarter-final.
RD Parker 38 Souris 16
Hailey Best’s nine points paced the Trojans in their quarter-final. Tanja Gohl had seven for the Sabres.