Mustangs struggle at weekend tournaments

Basketball teams refocus after losses to prepare for final season games

Hope Mustang

Hope’s senior Mustangs girls and boys faced stiff competition in tournament action last weekend, with only one victory to show for their efforts.

The boys hosted their annual Hoopfest, with seven teams attending. Action started at noon on Friday, when Hope met the Aldergrove Totems.

Coach Jake Giles said, “The crowd for the opening game was great. It was really good for the guys to have the bleachers full and cheering for them. Because the boys aren’t used to that, it gave them a boost, for sure, but also probably made them a little more nervous.”

Aldergrove’s Lovy Brar set the stage with 10 three-pointers, while Hope’s Blake Deschenes countered with 15 points and Brendan Prawdzik, 14. The visitors’ balanced firepower let them cruise to a 106-43 win.

Brar scored another eight treys against Agassiz and won the three-point contest with 11 baskets but his team’s shooting cooled off in Saturday night’s championship match, with DW Poppy posting a 53-30 win.

The Mustangs were short two starters in their second game, versus Langley Fundamental on Friday night.

“We played them in the Agassiz tournament earlier this year and beat them” said coach Giles. “They were missing a player in that game, and we were missing two starting players in this game. We probably could have had a more competitive game than we did.”

Deschenes led Hope’s effort with 11 points but Langley rolled to a 77-34 win.

“We were down two starters against Agassiz as well, on Saturday morning,” said Giles. “We had played them twice before the tournament — both close games — but this time, without two starters, it was a little bit more difficult.

“With Blake out with a knee injury, they put a full court press on us and we had a few more turnovers than we would have liked. However, I was proud of the guys coming out strong in the first half. In the first half we handled the pressure well enough and showed some real tenacity.”

Agassiz took a 64-31 win, with Prawdzik and Marcus Aubin each contributing nine points for the Mustangs. Agassiz went on to a fourth-place finish.

Despite the humbling tournament and regular-season losses, Giles spoke of the positives he has seen from his squad.

“We have a bunch of guys who have never played before this year — many of them Grade 12s — and it feels like the game is finally slowing down for them, in some respects.

“They are seeing the floor better, understanding what to do in certain situations. It’s hard, when you’ve never played before, to go on the floor with a bunch of guys who have been doing this for years, so I’m proud of those guys for keeping at it.

“We’ve lost a lot this year — and the biggest problem with losing is that it can cause you to develop some bad habits.  When we turn the ball over, there are moments when heads hang and the body language isn’t very good at all.

“We have to be a team that hustles every second we are on the floor.”

The boys have three upcoming games against Abby Christian, Highroad Academy and Unity Christian, to close out the season.

The senior girls traveled to Barriere for a 10-team tournament and coach Jeff Kuhn said, “It was good for our girls, but the scores didn’t really reflect that.

“Our first draw was against Lake District, who are ranked sixth in the province.  We played a great first half… down 20-19 at half time… but they came out with five straight threes and beat us by 30.

“Our loss moved us into a game against Heritage Christian, who are ranked third in the province.  We played our best game yet but fell to them as well, by 22 points. The final game we won 30-14 against Xet’olacw (Mount Currie) — our only victory, but our worst game.

“There were 10 teams invited to the tourney and our half of the bracket had three in the top 10, provincially. Had we been in the other half of the draw, we could have been in the finals… but the girls realized these were tough teams and were happy with their efforts,” said Kuhn.

The girls also have three league games remaining, with Unity Christian travelling to Hope for a 6:15 p.m. game on Feb. 2.

“Since there are six teams in our conference, we are guaranteed one playoff game,” added the coach, “but it will most likely be against the number one or number two seed.”