ESTEVAN - The Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS) Elecs came up just a few points short in their effort to take back the McLeod Series trophy from the Weyburn Comprehensive School (WCS) Eagles.
The Eagles senior boys basketball team defeated their rivals from Estevan 68-61 on Feb. 16 in Estevan in the finale of the best-of-four showdown.
Each school won two games this year, so the series came down to point differential. Weyburn outscored Estevan by 12, 247-235, during the four games.
It's the fourth straight time that Weyburn has won the series.
In the senior boys' game Wednesday, the two teams were tied 22-22 after the first quarter and 33-33 at halftime. The lead changed hands on numerous occasions.
Estevan pulled ahead in the third, and led 49-44 after three quarters. The Elecs grew the lead to 57-50 midway through the fourth quarter, but Weyburn rallied, outscoring the Elecs 18-4 down the stretch.
Head coach Tanner Kozun was pleased with how the team played defensively, especially in the second quarter, but they lacked execution down the stretch and a couple of key players fouled out.
“We didn’t execute actions that we were looking to get on offence in late game scenarios, and that just comes from experience and those guys getting those types of late game scenarios where the game is tight,” said Kozun.
As for the senior girls' game that night, Estevan won 54-49 in overtime. The Elecs had a 29-14 lead at half-time, thanks to a dominant second quarter in which they outscored Weyburn 19-1.
“I think defensively … I made a change. I went from a zone to a man to man (defensive scheme). I think that was the changing factor in our second quarter there. They came out just playing hard defence against Weyburn and we were transitioning well on them, and trying to push the ball on offence,” said coach Bridget Bjorndalen.
Estevan had a 35-21 advantage late in the third, but Weyburn responded with 14 straight points, including a buzzer-beating three-point shot to tie the game at 35-35.
The Elecs led 45-41 with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but Weyburn made two clutch shots to force overtime.
ECS outscored Weyburn 9-4 in the extra frame.
A large, boisterous crowd turned out for the games in Estevan, packing the main grandstand. Many fans were seated on benches behind the hoops, or were standing at various locations. They cheered their respective teams on, and chanted loudly throughout the night.
Bjorndalen, who has been both a player and a coach for ECS in the McLeod Series, has seen the intensity ramp up the past few years.
“It’s amazing to see how much the McLeod Series has changed fan-wise. When I was a player it definitely wasn’t to the calibre that it is now.”
It was often tough to communicate with the players from the sidelines because the audience was so loud, she said.
“You definitely have to tell the girls beforehand that you have to be listening to us coaches on the sidelines and ignoring what the crowd is doing,” she said.
It was Kozun’s first McLeod Series, and to see the energy in the building at both schools was fun.
“It can definitely get a little loud, but I think more than anything, especially after two years of COVID, just to see a full gym, with that kind of energy again was rejuvenating in a sense,” said Kozun. “Obviously you want to be on the winning end of a game like that, but nonetheless it was great to see that atmosphere back in those two communities.”
The first two games were played Feb. 14 in Weyburn. The Weyburn senior boys won 88-66, while the Estevan senior girls won 54-42.
Kozun said energy and intensity were the biggest differences between the games in Weyburn and Estevan. The Elecs have a young team, with just three Grade 12s and one Grade 11, while Weyburn’s entire roster had Grade 11 and 12s.
ECS was also coming off a tournament the previous weekend.
“For a lot of kids on my team, probably half of them, the last time that they played prior to the season was elementary (school),” said Kozun. “I think the lights were a little bit big for the young guys. They came out a little bit flat and the energy wasn’t really there on defence.”
Bjorndalen noted the games in Weyburn were initially slated to happen Feb. 9, and so those extra days gave the girls a chance to build up some added intensity.
“They really, really wanted to come out with a win in Weyburn. That’s their home court advantage, so just to be able to get that win against them in their home court is huge for us. So I think overall the team was just excited to get their first McLeod Series in.”
The senior girls have a young team as well, as only three had played in a McLeod Series before.
Weyburn now leads the all-time series 46-40.