Spartans to use BSSI showing as a building block


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For high school basketball teams, how they look in the opening tournament of the season isn’t always the best indicator of what they’ll be like when the provincials roll around.

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For high school basketball teams, how they look in the opening tournament of the season isn’t always the best indicator of what they’ll be like when the provincials roll around.

However, if this weekend’s performance at the Brandon Sun Spartan Invitational is any indication, the Neelin Spartans varsity boys program should have another strong campaign.

The defending provincial AAA champions went 3-0 to finish first in Pool A play before losing a 75-64 Tier 1 semifinal contest to the Dakota Lancers on Saturday at the Healthy Living Centre.

They were slated to play the Maples Marauders in a third-place game later that afternoon, but that contest did not take place as the Marauders elected to head back to Winnipeg early.

“As a group, we’re really happy,” Spartans coach Don Thomson said. “The bar kept moving up after every game and that was the best part of our entire weekend.

“We’re still a ways away from where we want to be, but this is December basketball and we showed a lot of improvement over the course of the weekend. Now we’ll go back to work and continue to put some more hours in.”

Grade 12 point guard J.T. Martine was very impressed with his team’s performance against the Lancers, even though they didn’t come away with the win.

“We’re continuing to get better, especially as we learn how everyone plays,” Martine said. “Our transition game improved a lot as the weekend went along and we also got a lot better with our defence.”

Max Winters — who earned a spot on the tournament all-star team along with fellow Grade 12 player Jeremy Slomiany — had 21 points to lead the Spartans in scoring against the Lancers, while Felipe Elizade scored 19 points.

“The thing with our play this weekend was that the more comfortable we became … the more confident we were in what we were doing and that allowed us to have more success,” Thomson said.

“I think as the season goes on, we’re going to be a very good team in terms of our transition play,” Martine added. “We’re going to be pretty fast in how we move around the court, especially as we pass the ball up to guys like Jeremy and Max.”

In other results involving Brandon teams, the Vincent Massey Vikings finished in fourth place in the Tier 1 second consolation playoffs after losing an 80-49 contest to the Fort Richmond Centurions and dropping a 71-51 decision to the Aden Bowman Bears of Saskatoon.

Carter Moore recorded 15 points for the Vikings in their loss to the Centurions, while Christian Santin scored 12 points against the Bears.

The Crocus Plainsmen saw their tournament end with a 92-79 loss in a Tier 2 consolation semifinal contest to the Weyburn (Sask.) Eagles. Jacob Thornitt was the top scorer for the Plainsmen with 19 points.

Meanwhile, the Souris Sabres won the Tier 2 second consolation event by a score of 81-35 over the Vincent Massey junior varsity team.

Zaiden Simonson led the way for the Sabres with 15 points and Callum Brosseau recorded a game-high 22 points for the Vikings.

The Plainsmen junior varsity squad ended up in third place in the bracket as they came away with a 45-41 triumph over the Spartans junior varsity team.

Zidane Mirundi scored nine points for Crocus Plains and Michael Angelkovski had 10 points for the Spartans.

Storm presented challenges

The biggest task that BSSI organizers had during the weekend was dealing with Mother Nature.

As a result of a winter storm that hit the province on Thursday and Friday, six teams — the Carberry Cougars, Dauphin Clippers, Estevan (Sask.) Elecs, Garden City Fighting Gophers, Portage Trojans and Virden Golden Bears — were unable to make the trip to Brandon.

“At the time that those teams were going to leave for here, it was going to be very dangerous out on the highway for the coaches and the kids,” Thomson said. “We respect their decisions to not travel and we’re never going to argue that.

“I was talking to (Dakota head coach) Dean Favoni, who has been to every one of these tournaments since it started in 2004, and we agreed that this was probably the most challenging one we’ve had in terms of logistics with all the changes that we had.

“A huge credit has to go to all of the coaches, officials, supervisors and volunteers that were flexible enough and understanding of what we were trying to do. They played a huge part in making this weekend a success.”


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