Saskatchewan bounces back to win bronze medal

REGINA — Regina Leader Post
Published August 1, 2016

After a nightmarish Friday night, this Saskatchewan Day long weekend didn’t turn out too badly for the host province’s entry in the Basketball Canada under-17 girls basketball championship at the University of Regina.

On Saturday, the girls were presented with hard-earned bronze medals after beating Manitoba 82-56 in the third-place game — but not before they endured a heartbreaking 73-69 loss to Quebec on Friday night.

Had Team Saskatchewan won Friday night, it would have been propelled into Saturday’s championship game. Instead, Saskatchewan surrendered a third-quarter, 10-point lead to the eventual tournament runners-up from Quebec. The Quebec team also rallied to overcome a four-point deficit with less than a minute remaining.

As Ontario fought its way to a convincing 76-53 victory over Quebec in the gold-medal game, Saskatchewan head coach Wayne Morrison broke down Friday’s shortcomings courtside.

“We had some trouble finishing, which is something that we usually don’t have much trouble doing,” says Morrison. “We had a lot of opportunities to score, where we usually would, but (on Friday night) we missed quite a few shots that we’d usually make.

“There was a lot of contact. The reffing probably didn’t suit our style of play. And then, at the end, they made a couple shots and we missed some opportunities. That’s basketball, you know?”

Part of the game or not, “heartbreaking,” the hard-working teens agreed after the fact, isn’t too strong a word to sum up Friday night’s action.

“We wanted to get gold,” Saskatoon’s Lauryn Prokop said. “That was definitely our expectation going into the tournament.”

“Heartbroken is an understatement,” Moose Jaw’s Macaela Crone noted.

“That was so devastating,” added Emily Dewey, the squad’s lone player from Regina.

Team Saskatchewan went into the tournament with full confidence that another gold medal was well within its reach, thanks in equal parts to the players’ history together and a summer filled with oftentimes gruelling preparations.

After the defeat, the girls were overcome with tears and a sense of shock leaving the court as they head to the locker room.

Teams respond to losses in pretty distinct ways. But, as the girls will tell you, there was no way they were leaving the facility without bronze medals around their necks on Saturday.

“It can be hard to pull yourself together, I guess, and get that motivation to win that next game, but our team was so supportive of everybody, and we pulled together to win,” Dewey said.

“Getting the loss against Quebec (on Friday night), then getting up to win the bronze medal at 1:30 shows how mentally tough all of our girls are,” added Crone.

Morrison agreed another gold medal was the goal of his squad from Day 1, when tryouts kicked off in April. But the coach’s pride in his team was nonetheless evident as the first-place game played out nearby.

“They’re character kids. They’re winners. These girls are successful in anything they do, and they’re going to do well in anything they do,” Morrison says. “Life is all about setbacks and how you deal with them, and our girls showed they’re very tough-minded.”

Dewey was named a first-team all-star. Saskatchewan’s Ella Johnson made the second all-star team.

In the under-15 national championships, also at the U of R, Quebec defeated B.C. 61-48 in the championship game on Saturday. Saskatchewan defeated Newfoundland 84-66 in the seventh-place game.