Mustangs undefeated at zones; focus on provincials
Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 06:00 am
The season of firsts continued for the George McDougall Mustangs senior boys basketball team as it captured its first-ever Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association (ASAA) 3A South Central Championship March 10.
Going alongside its first-ever Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) Championship, the team just needs one more banner – 3A ASAA Provincials – to complete the triple and end its near-perfect season.
“We’ll celebrate our victories but we won’t be satisfied,” head coach JT Thompson said. “We have to have that attitude or else people become complacent. It’s not over until we have that gold medal around our neck or somebody that is better than us has knocked us out.
Having entered the South Central Zones as the number 1 seed, the Mustangs earned a bye past the first round and needed just a pair of wins to secure the zone championship and one of two berths into provincials March 16 to 18 in Medicine Hat.
The Mustangs opened its zone tournament March 9 with a second round matchup against the fifth-seeded Canmore Collegiate Crusaders, where the team gutted out a narrow two-point victory to make its way to the Zone Championship game.
Thompson admitted the game against the Crusaders wasn’t the strongest from his high-octane team, but the close game served more as preparation for the pressure the team faced heading into the final.
“It wasn’t one of our better showings but hats off to Canmore for showing up. They came to play,” he said.
The next day the Mustangs took on the Brooks Composite Buffaloes in the finals, setting a battle against two of the top four ranked teams in the ASAA 3A rankings.
The game was another close one but the Mustangs gained an early lead and never let the Buffaloes take over.
Led by double-digit points from Dawson Funk, Justin Bragg, Caleb Lee and Hunter Young, the Mustangs went on to win 92-84 to capture the South Central Zone Championship.
“Our game play was to stop their transitioning because they’re very fast – probably the fastest team we’ve played against,” Thompson said. “In zones we had a can’t lose attitude; we played like our backs were against the wall.
“We could have lost and still earned a berth to provincials but we did that last year. So instead we went in with the attitude that we could not lose.”
As successful as the team has been this season, the Mustangs still have one goal in mind and that is the 3A Provincial Championship. Just one year after earning bronze in its first trip to the provincials, the Mustangs have bigger goals this time around.
In what will be a bit of a change for the Mustangs, the team enters the provincial tournament as the third seed – instead of first place as it was in the RVSA post-season and zones. Thompson said his team knows it’s going to have to knock off the top teams in Alberta.
Instead of relying on his big four, Thompson said he would like to see other players step up during provincials – including first-year players such as Carter Sawsby, Jaiden Pannu, Josh Inocando and second-year player Austin Thompson.
“We have the four and they’re going to put up their 15 to 20 points, but we don’t have that fifth, sixth and seventh player,” Thompson said. “In order for us to continue to be successful, they have to ramp up their game a bit.
“If we can get three out of the four of those guys contributing, we’re going to be a very tough team to beat.”
As the third seed in the tournament, the Mustangs receive a bye into the second round of the provincials and will take on the winner of the Blessed Oscar Romero Ravens and Holy Rosary Raiders March 17 in Medicine Hat.
“The trick at this point and time, being the post-season, is to play the least amount of games so you don’t get burnt out or injured,” Thompson said. “(Having a bye) is a total advantage. Every kid on the team is working through something, whether it’s an illness or injury, it’s bound to happen.Any rest days we can have is an advantage.”