After a lean season on the scoreboard, the Stettler Wildcats gained a measure of satisfaction in their senior boys’ high school basketball tournament at the William E. Hay Composite gym.
The Wildcats picked up a win in the first of their three tournament games at home. They defeated Wainwright 64-54.
“That’s a good feeling for the boys to experience, especially when the league has been so hard this year,” said Stettler coach Joe Thibeau. “Going to tournaments and winning a couple of games here and there has encouraged them to keep going and keep playing, so that’s always good.”
The Wildcats didn’t qualify for league playoffs, so they’re 1-2 record in their home tournament capped their season.
It marked the end of high school hoops for Mark Meyer, Ty Page, Wyatt Peters, Tyler Stewart and Morgan Loshny, whose season finished early because of injury.
In their other Stettler tourney games, the Wildcats lost 86-37 to Strathcona-Tweedsmuir in pool play and fell 59-44 to Daysland in the bronze-medal contest.
It’s been that kind of season for the Wildcats, who remained in the rebuilding phase.
“We have a young team again,” said Thibeau, whose assistant coach is Bryce Leschert. “We have eight Grade 11s who are coming back next year.
“Over the past few years, we’ve been kind of building up and trying to develop our basketball program again.”
He hopes the building blocks go beyond the high school season, and that a prospective Stettler spring basketball league becomes a reality.
“I think we’re going to start to do some things off-season, this year hopefully, and encourage guys to go to camps and that sort of thing, too, like Camp Teckla,” Thibeau said.
“It can give them that development outside of the (school) season.”
In a small town full of hockey and football players, it’s often difficult to find basketball-first student-athletes. Most of the Wildcats are standouts in football, hockey and volleyball, and they add basketball to the mix mostly for fun.
“But we definitely have some guys who I think basketball is their sport,” Thibeau said. “Justin Fleischhacker, one of our big guys, is a big basketball guy. Jordan Bauman will be a strong point (guard) for us next year.
“We have some other really good players — Nick Baharally and Jacques du Toit played good defence and they’re hard-working guys, too. So I think all those guys are engaged and wanting to do more.”
The Wildcats scored a bonus from the outset this season when Grade 11 student Braden Deagle transferred from Consort last fall. Much like he did with the senior boys’ volleyball team, Deagle made an impact with the senior boys’ basketball club.
“Braden Deagle stepped up big,” Thibeau said. “He was probably one of our strongest players this year, in terms of getting points and rebounding. He was a welcome addition this year that was a kind of a surprise. He’s a good all-around athlete, for sure.”
Deagle showed that skill in the Wildcats’ final game as he drained four three-point shots.
Playing their last high school game, Page picked up eight points and Stewart added seven. Grade 11 students Fleischhacker and Stephen Zuk contributed six and four points, respectively.
In the gold-medal game, Barrhead defeated Strathcona- Tweedsmuir 60-54 on the strength of a 23-point effort from Cole Knudsen.
Wainwright topped Calgary Phoenix FFCA 70-64 in the fifth-place contest.