The senior boys Sabres basketball team showed resolve in capturing the Division 2 Championship at the Lloyd Bellew Memorial Tournament hosted by Erle Rivers School in Milk River.
The Sabres played at the 12-team tournament on Friday and Saturday, January 29 and 30. They were feeling confident after previously defeating Three Hills, and earning a provincial honourable mention. They pulled off three wins in a row on Saturday to win the trophy.
Coach Gavin Makse says one of the keys was the team’s ability to bounce back from adversity to be successful, a skill that set them up for success.
The Sabres had road legs after the long car trip to Milk River and came out slow against St. Mary’s of Taber, on friday night They were down 56-22 at the half. They did show resolve and matched the St. Mary’s Celtics point for point in the second half, but could not make up the gap, and lost 90-56. Brandon Gruber led scoring with 26.
Their second game of pool play put them up against the Oyen Scorpions. The Sabres found the strong start they were looking for, and jumped out to a 20-5 lead in the first quarter. Oyen battled back, but the Sabres never lost the lead and won 68-50. This time Gruber knocked in 22 points and Josh Mohan scored 14, of those, 12 points were from behind the three-point line. Anthony Merkel contributed 13.
The team’s success put them in the Division 2 semi final against Rosemary. The Sabres had met Rosemary before St. Anthony’s home tournament, and were successful. This was the Sabres’ chance to send a message to a team they may see later in playoffs.
Rosemary led after the first quarter, but by half time, the teams were even at 45. The Sabres led by one point after three quarters, and then opened up in the fourth to win 81-71. Merkel led the way with 30 points, while Gruber chipped in 19 and Mitch Barry slashed his way in for 11 points.
This set up a final between the F.P. Walsh Flyers of Fort Macleod, and the Sabres. The Sabres led by as much as 11 at half time, but the Flyers kept up the pressure. Gruber had tournament high 31 points, leading the Sabres down the stretch. Merkel who scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter helped him along. In the end, the Sabres were victorious 57-51.
Makse says the tournament was a great test for the team as they were in two competitive games that came down to the wire. The Sabres were able to close the door on their opponents, under pressure.
The team was spurred along by a strong contingent of supportive parents and family that came long to boost the team.
The Sabres are off to their second tournament in as many weeks as they head to Bassano this weekend.