The 2022-23 high-school basketball season is officially in the books, and four Airdrie teams went the distance, qualifying for and competing at their respective provincial championship tournaments.
The George McDougall Mustangs senior girls team did their school – and city – proud, finishing seventh at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association's (ASAA) 3A tournament, which was held from March 16 to 18 in Wetaskiwin.
According to head coach Jamie Newman, this marked the first time a Mustangs girls' basketball team had qualified for provincials in 13 years.
“It was great for these young ladies, after a great year,” he said. “It was all new to them. They were excited and overwhelmed, but they embraced everything.
“For our younger players – because we have a pretty young team – it was great learning experience to see what that next level of basketball is going to be like.”
The Mustangs qualified for provincials as a wild card entry, after competing at the South Central Zones 4A tournament the weekend prior. George McDougall booked their berth by beating the Cochrane Cobras in the play-in game to determine who would be the zone's second team to qualify for the ASAA tournament.
Newman said the Mustangs beat the Cobras in overtime to seal the deal, adding it was another close battle in what was their fourth time playing Cochrane this season.
“We had some really good games with them all season, but having three victories over them this year was great for us.”
Once in Wetaskiwin, Newman said the Mustangs were ranked fourth among the 12 competing teams, which meant they were to play their opening game against the fifth-ranked team – St. Peter the Apostle, of Spruce Grove.
George McDougall battled in that game, Newman said, but couldn't overcome an 11-point deficit they'd fallen behind in the first quarter.
“We put ourselves in a bit of a hole,” he admitted. “After the first quarter, we were down by 11, but we ended up 'winning' the second, third, and fourth quarters. I know that doesn't really count for anything, but we ended up losing by five points in that qualifying quarterfinal.”
The Mustangs also lost their second game, which was against R.F. Staples Secondary School – a team from Westlock – by a similar score line. As a result, George McDougall officially placed seventh overall.
Nevertheless, Newman said even competing at provincials was a great accomplishment this winter. Considering the Mustangs are only graduating five players, and that three starters this season were in Grade 10, he added it it bodes well for the team's chance of replicating or surpassing the accomplishment next year.
The coach added that in addition to representing George McDougall and Airdrie, it felt like the Mustangs were representing their division as a whole, as they were the only Rocky View Schools team to qualify for provincials this year.
“We were the only Rocky View team to go, so it was quite the accomplishment for the girls,” he said, adding the players' self-belief increased as the season wore on. “It was especially great for my five Grade 12s to experience that in their graduating year.”
Other Airdrie teams
While George McDougall was the only public school in Airdrie to send a team to the ASAA tournament last week, Airdrie was also represented at the 3A provincials by the St. Martin de Porres Kodiaks senior boys' team.
In the 3A boys' tournament, the St. Martin de Porres Kodiaks went 1-2 at the tournament in Wetaskiwin, with a win over the Winston Churchill Bulldogs sandwiched between losses against St. Joseph and Camrose.
The city was also represented at the 1A provincial tournaments, including Airdrie Christian Academy's senior boys' team and the École francophone d'Airdrie senior girls' team.
In the 1A boys' tournament, hosted in Coaldale, Airdrie Christian Academy beat E.H. Walter School (from Paradise Valley) 66-56 in their opening game on March 16. The Airdronians then followed up with a 79-69 defeat to Parkland Immanuel Christian School in their next game.
That loss put Airdrie Christian into the B consolation pool bracket, and they lost their final game of the tournament to Consort, 75-60 on March 18.
At the 1A senior girls' tournament in Stirling, the École francophone d'Airdrie Gryphons lost their opening fixture 52-42 to St. Thomas More Catholic, which knocked them out of medal contention.
The Gryphons continued their tournament in the 'C' pool, first beating Leduc's Covenant Christian School handily, before losing 73-22 to St. Michael's in the ninth-place consolation game.