MVP Wiebe powers Plainsmen to victory


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All of a sudden, the Crocus Plainsmen faced their first big test.

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All of a sudden, the Crocus Plainsmen faced their first big test.

They blew two teams out to start the Crocus Plains Early Bird varsity girls’ basketball tournament and had a comfortable lead against Neelin in the final. The Spartans surged back and cut a 13-point deficit to two, but the Plainsmen defence clamped down and nearly shut them out in the last three minutes to win 64-54 at Crocus on Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve been working pretty hard on our defence and I think we executed that pretty well throughout the whole tournament,” said tournament MVP Rylee Wiebe.

“I’m pretty happy. I was a little nervous because we lost so many people but we have an incredible (group) and I’m excited for our season.”

Wiebe led Crocus with 15 points. The five-foot-nine senior is listed as a guard but does it all. She went coast-to-coast for a few layups, knocked down jump shots and crashed the glass for put-back buckets.

She credits coach Adam Hartman for getting everyone to practise a variety of skills, not just position-specific ones.

“I can play whatever. I like bouncing around,” Wiebe said. “We get work in on everything so we can be versatile and everybody can play every spot if needed.”

Crocus opened up a 12-6 lead early before tournament all-star Tyra Lasuik led Neelin on a 7-0 run midway through the first quarter. It stayed close the rest of the half as Plainsmen Grade 11s Kylie Kulman and Kiera Griffin hit three-pointers to go up 30-27 at the break.

Wiebe and Alanah Gushulak dominated in the paint early in the third quarter, then Amber Neapew hit a triple to give Crocus its first double-digit lead of the day, 45-34.

The Spartans came out of a timeout down 13 with full-court pressure. Lasuik and Kruz Wilson forced a few turnovers to spark a comeback. It was 49-41 after three when all-star Danica Black went to work. She completed a three-point play, and then Lasuik drilled a quick catch-and-shoot trey.

Rachel McCausland hit a rainbow three from the corner and Madison Kwiatkowski scored two of her 12 to suddenly get it to 55-53.

Crocus only led thanks to a pair of Jorja Luckins jumpers.

It turned out that lead and tenacious defence were enough. The Plainsmen didn’t allow another field goal and pulled away with a few key points off turnovers to ice it.

This week was Wiebe’s first big test without her sister, Emma, who graduated and joined the Providence Pilots in the Manitoba college ranks. Rylee said it was tough to adjust to playing without Emma and her big senior class.

“We were rookies last year but coming out and being able to shine and bring that positive attitude to help lead everybody, it’s pretty incredible,” Rylee said.

Gushulak and Alyanna Gungon — also an all-star — had 14 points apiece for Crocus while Lasuik led Neelin with 15.

In the third-placed game, Dauphin downed Warren 52-31 as all-star Kirsten Genik dropped a game-high 13 points and Ava Paziuk added 10. All-star Colby Darragh led Warren with 10.

Vincent Massey overcame a 37-point performance by Fiona Garcia to edge Virden 48-46.

Althea Gonowon led the Vikings with 20 points.

Massey lost a lopsided quarterfinal to Dauphin, which fell 53-38 to Neelin in Saturday morning’s semifinals.

So as it stands, the Plainsmen are the favourites to defend their city title as the regular season gets underway on Dec. 20.

“I want to win city finals and I think we have a good chance of that,” Wiebe said. “I want to be able to bond like we did last year and have that group of girls that are like a family. I really look forward to that.”


» Twitter: @thomasmfriesen

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