UNITY — For the third year in a row, Unity Composite High School sent both the boys’ and the girls’ basketball teams to Sask. High School Athletics Association provincial championships.
The UCHS girls did not come home with a medal, but they did experience a profound moment of sportsmanship in the bronze medal final. Here's a video of the touching moment, shared with us by Chris Thiele.
UCHS girls lost to Lanigan in their opening game 64-54 on March 24 and played for bronze March 25. The lady Warriors tipped off against familiar rivals, St. Walburg.
Coach Aaron Melnyk says a heartwarming moment in that game is part of what makes high school sports memorable.
“Earlier this season one of the St. Walburg Saints injured her knee and had to sit out the remainder of the season,” Melnyk says.
“She is a key player and will continue her basketball career next year in college. As it was her last high school game, she dressed in uniform and sat with the players. We noticed this and commented that if she came onto the court at some point, we would be respectful of the situation.
“As it turns out, with little time left in the game and the result clear, their coaching staff subbed her into the game with 41 seconds left. The Saints collected a rebound and passed her the ball. She slowly and carefully made her way down the court, and I was so impressed that our Warriors stepped back and allowed her to have an open lane to score a basket to end the game and finish her high school career.
“There was a lot of emotion in the gym, and everyone was very happy for her.”
He adds, “Although we fell short this weekend, we are very proud of a great season and the accomplishment of making it back to Hoopla for the third straight season. More importantly, I couldn’t be more proud of these girls and the way they handled the end of their last game. We were all clearly disappointed they couldn’t get it going in that game but still had the awareness to allow that special moment to unfold.
“Wins are great and losing can sting, but it was clear this weekend that sports build character and the girls were true Warriors when it really mattered.”
Following the game, the St. Walburg Saints wanted to share their victory with UCHS and thank the girls for a good show of sportsmanship, thus posed for a group photo following medal presentations. It was a nice moment and a silver lining to finish out their season, affirmed Melnyk.
UCHS girls’ team includes Danielle Bowker, Aithel Sumaya, Sydney Greenwald, Molly Orobko, Keanna Kelly, Kasey Parker, Jorja Gumpinger and Grace Lindsay. Coaches are Aaron Melnyk and Devyn McLean and manager, Brenna O’Brian. Three graduating players wrapped up their high school basketball years: Kaitlyn Nestmann, Dailyn Wagner and Kierra Bosch.
The UCHS boys could not overcome a strong Osler VCA team losing their semifinal 95-65, putting them in the bronze medal game against Fort Qu’Appelle.
“The weekend was electric,” says team manager, Kyla Snell.
“With teams in every category competing for a provincial title, all games were intense and fun to watch.”
Snell said after four quarters of back-and-forth action, a timely stop, successful free throws and an excellent rebound, the game went into overtime. The Warriors dug deep and played smart in overtime securing a 67-64 victory over the Bisons.
“The boys worked through adversity to win a medal and a banner for their school,” adds Snell.
Graduating Warriors basketball players include Logan Middleton, Layne Parker and Thomas Snell. Other team members include Garret Brebner, Cooper Lewin, Zayden Wagner, Noah Gumpinger, Zander Willy, Jack Brebner, Ethan Stifter, Dawson Rusk, Mateo Rutley, John Daniel Virtudez, Kyler Kereluk and Kendall Krpan. Coaches are Jeremy Wagner, Quinn Maze and Darren Stifter with Kyla Snell serving as team manager.
UCHS boys then stayed to cheer on the UCHS girls’ team in their bronze medal match.
McLurg girls’ basketball made their repeat appearance at SHSAA Hoopla.
For McLurg, it was their second appearance in the gold medal game, as they were silver medalists in 2022. A decided victory over Rocanville, 66-42, earned the McLurg girls a back-to-back trip to the provincial basketball gold medal game. The team knew they would have a tough match in their March 25 game, facing off against Regina Laval. Wilkie led Regina 27-20 at the half, however, Laval rallied back winning the game by a score of 51-43, resulting in a back-to-back silver medal for the lady Broncs in the 2A division.
McLurg team includes Brooke Bannerman, Cheyanne Cey, Kiri Myszcszyszyn, Emily Hango, Samantha Mackenzie, Chloe Breber, Tyra Myszczyszyn, Fanna Santi, Kieran Brebner, Haily Hyland, Erin Squires, Ava Sittler, Reese Fenrich, Dahlia Rafid-Hamed and Alara Lang. Coaches are Mark Myszczyszyn and Jeff Hyland. McLurg’s graduating players included Danna Santi, Samantha Mackenzie, Dahlia Rafid-Hamed and Ava Sittler.
Provincial high school basketball championships took place March 23-25 in Prince Albert at the venues of Carlton Comprehensive CPAC, Carlton Comprehensive Red Gym, Ecole St. Mary High and Saskatchewan Polytechnic, all in Prince Albert. It is the second time in the 41-year history of Hoopla that Prince Albert is playing host.
An SHSAA media release before the event, states, “Provincial championship high school basketball began in 1951 and it has evolved to be five classifications and the competition we now know as Hoopla! The event brings together basketball teams from urban and rural Saskatchewan to one centre to decide 10 champions.”
A total of 54 games occurred over the three days leading to 10 different provincial champions. Celebration of the season-long effort by coaches and players, the thrill of competition, the excitement of the crowds and the displays of good sportsmanship are significant parts of the Hoopla experience.