Mustangs capture first-ever RVSA Championship
Thursday, Mar 09, 2017 06:00 am
The historical run of the George McDougall Mustangs senior boys basketball team continues as the team captured its first-ever Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) league championship, with an 87-74 victory March 4 over the Chestermere Lakers.
The Mustangs complete a perfect RVSA season, going 6-0 in the regular season and winning both its semifinal and final match en route to an 8-0 record, earning the top seed in the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA) 3A South Central Zone Championships.
Associate coach Jamie Mulholland said it felt awesome to win the RVSA Championship.
“That was a really good, gritty, close tough-fought game and you have to give Chestermere credit – they played us hard,” he said.
Although the Mustangs came into the RVSA final as favourites, the team was challenged early on by the defending RVSA Champions.
The Lakers started the 2016-17 RVSA basketball season with an 84-51 loss back at the start of December, but had rattled off five straight wins against the rest of the league to finish second and earn a bye to the semifinals like the Mustangs.
The Lakers improved immensely from the start of the season and kept the game close with the high-powered Mustangs through a majority of the game.
A tight first quarter, where the Mustangs held a slim 21-16 lead, kept the teams frustrated with one another into the second quarter.
The Mustangs started to pull ahead, holding a wider margin over the Lakers until the squad from Chestermere roared back in the final minutes to make the score a close 41-37 heading into halftime.
Defensively, the Lakers were swarming the Mustangs and forced turnovers continuously, converting them into crucial points against the Airdrie-based squad.
“Their pressure caused us problems and we started to cave to it,” Mulholland said. “Once we started taking care of the ball better and started being more aggressive, we got past that.”
It was more of the same in the third quarter as the Mustangs and Lakers put up 20 and 19 points respectively to make the final 10 minutes of the game the deciding factor.
The Mustangs depth started to roll in the fourth quarter as the team pulled away from its opponents and never looked back to finish the game with a 26-point quarter, the victory and the elusive RVSA championship.
“(The game turned in our favour) when we started to take the ball inside more and take it at them,” Mulholland said. “Our rebounding was big for us, too. They only got one shot and that was a game changer.”
Although the Mustangs were a team that relied on leadership and strong play from senior players, including the likes of Justin Bragg, Hunter Thompson and Dawson Funk, it was first-year guard Caleb Lee who paved the way for George McDougall, finishing the game with 18 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds.
“(Lee) played a great game. He was composed, distributed the ball well and was good under pressure,” Mulholland said.
For the five returnees from the 2015-16 season, this game was redemption as the team got back to the finals for a second year in a row, but were on the other side of the result this time around.
“We talked a lot about the seniors this past week and how they wanted to end the season and be remembered,” Mulholland said. “They stepped up and wanted that banner so bad, just to make history.”
Though pleased with its first RVSA title, the Mustangs still have bigger goals in mind as the team now turns its attention to 3A South Central Zones where it will take on six teams looking to secure a berth in the 2017 ASAA 3A Provincials.
Due to earning the top seed heading into zones, the Mustangs earned a bye into the semifinals of the winners bracket and will face the winner of the fourth-seeded Strathmore Spartans and fifth-seeded Canmore Collegiate Crusaders March 9.
“We still have some prep to do. We saw some of our weaknesses and have to sort out a few things, but our heart is there and that’s what really counts,” Mulholland said. “These boys are hungry and they still want it.”