While it was the furthest a St. Anthony’s sports team has ever gone in basketball competition, a heartbreaking overtime loss in the first round dashed the team’s hopes of provincial glory.
The senior boys Sabres basketball team qualified for the 1A Provincial Tournament in Vermilion after defeating Olds Koinonia Christian School to represent the zone.
e overall experience of provincials was important for the team to experience.
“The team made history in qualifying for the tournament. This was the largest scale basketball event in the province for this school, and the experience of seeing and being a part of the tournament was beneficial for them,” said Makse.
The team was ranked seventh going into the tournament of 12 teams and had the nearly insurmountable task of going up against the host St. Jerome’s in the first round of competition on Thursday, March 18.
The Sabres were up for the task and took a commanding lead after the first quarter 19-8. By half, according to the scoresheet, they were up by 15 points, and continued the lead through the third quarter. St. Jerome’s snuck back into the game in the fourth quarter and forced overtime. The Sabres were hampered by foul trouble, and for the first time this season Brandon Gruber, Anthony Merkel and Alex Cliche were forced to sit.
The Sabres had a chance to go ahead with four foul shots due to a technical foul, but they were cold from the stripe.
St. Jerome’s won 79-75.
“All you can do at this point is take the experience and learn from it, and work twice as hard the next time,” said Makse.
According to the scoresheet, Merkel had 25 points and point guard Matt Russell stepped up with 22 points.
This dropped the team to the consolation side of the draw and up against Forestburg. The Sabres were flat, but despite this, kept the game close. The lead bounced back and forth through the second half, however Forestburg outscored the Sabres 24-16 in the final quarter to win 79-71.
“It was a tough game for the team to get motivated to play when they knew they were capable of going further,” said Makse.
The team had one final chance to pull off a win at the tournament against Ecole Malliag Stingers.
By halftime, the game was neck and neck. In the second half, the Sabres mustered some pride and came out swinging. Quick substitutions allowed every player to contribute and continue to build momentum.
“We truly saw great contributions from every player on the team, and they did it on the court,” said Makse. “What was exciting is, that as they began to play better, the stress melted away, and they began to enjoy themselves. Despite the pressure of the tournament, they went out and started to have fun.”
Gruber led the way with 32 points as the Sabres won 67- 44.
“We ended the season with a victory, and that was important, especially to send our lone senior Trevor Stahl out with a win,” said Makse. “It also showed the team has pride in their game even at the lowest point.”
He adds he is appreciative of all the parental support. Once again, a contingent of parents and family, as large as the team accompanied the Sabres on the road trip.
Makse is already excited about next season. While they lose the leadership of Stahl, and the under the basket dominance of Merkel, who is moving to Medicine Hat, the core of the team is intact.
“With the progress the coaching staff has seen with this team over the past season, literally the sky is the limit. Every player has improved and shown outstanding commitment over the season, and are committed to the future of the team,” said Makse.