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Bears, Avalanche eye zone rivals at basketball classic

Basketball teams honour Kobe Bryant during the Bears Classic in Banff.

BANFF – As basketball season reaches the heart of the schedule, senior high school teams are sizing up competition ahead of 2A zones next month.

During the senior boys Bears Classic, Friday and Saturday (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) in Banff, the Banff Community High School (BCHS) Bears lost 62-38 in the bronze medal game against the St. Martin DePorres Kodiaks. In the consolation final, the Our Lady of the Snows (OLS) Avalanche handled business against the St. Augustine Kings, 78-56.

The results are middle of the pack, but the local teams believe they can "play with the big boys" after the eight-team tournament, which featured Webber Academy (ranked sixth provincially in 2A).

"In the last game, specifically, they are a higher zone than us, so we get to play against the bigger boys, the taller boys and it gets us ready for [zones]," said BCHS coach Jamie Olver. "When we do play the good teams this year in our zone, we’re so competitive with them, we’re either beating them or losing by single digits, so having that on our side is a good thing going into zones and going into the next few tournaments."

The Bears were held to single digit points in three quarters during Saturday’s bronze medal game at BCHS. But despite offensive troubles, the Bears were locked in a fight to win with the Kodiaks.

"We always bring the heart and that’s what Banff is known for and we’ll continue to bring that," Olver said.

In the third quarter, which was by far the Bears strongest 10 minutes, the boys came out in swinging and outscored the Kodiaks 19-10 to get back into the game and to give the crowd something to cheer about.

Banff point guard Jaden Samson said the Bears notoriously start slow, but the team always seems to turn up the intensity in the second half.

“I don’t know where it comes from, it just comes out of nowhere,” said Samson, who scored six points in the game. “We just end up getting the energy we need to win the game or catch up in the game.”

The Bears were down seven points going into the fourth against a bending Kodiaks squad, but the jets cooled off and both teams struggled to find their scoring touch. For the Bears playing catch up, the absent offence hurt when it was needed the most, and it was only a matter of time before the struggling Kodiaks shots started dropping after a slow five minutes to start the fourth.

With 3:30 on the clock, the Kodiaks drained back-to-back threes to increase the lead to 15 and ended any chance of a Bears comeback.

"We were forcing it a lot," said Samson about the rough quarter. "We didn’t take our time with the shots and running the plays we needed to and it was a tough loss."

Despite the game, Samson still likes his team's chances moving forward.

"I think we can win our zones if we play hard and keep playing the way we’re playing," he said.

After losing a close opening game 67-60 to the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans, the Avalanche went on to win its next two to take the consolation bracket.

Against the Kings in the final, OLS' Justin Hughes scored a game-high 30 points and Corey Banks had 16 in the lopsided victory.

Avalanche head coach Steven Ples said his team is "not there yet" and he expects it to be "a grind until the end", however, he's confident with the defensive pieces on the roster going into zones next month.

"There are some skilled teams and if we can beat them with our physicality and our pace, we got a chance. The main thing is defence, [and] being able to defend their top players ... if you can shut down two or three of their best guys, we have those key defenders that can do it so it just depends on the day."

This Friday and Saturday (Feb. 7-8), OLS hosts its senior boys tournament.

At the beginning on the Bears Classic, BCHS and Cochrane’s Bow Valley High School Bobcats honoured late NBA champion and basketball icon Kobe Bryant by running out the 24-second shot clock and eight-second backcourt violations. Bryant wore number eight and 24 during his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Banff guard Joseph Bunao wrote "#MambaOut" on his sneakers for the tournament to pay respect to Bryant, who was nicknamed "The Black Mamba."

On Jan. 26, Bryant, 41, and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash just outside of Los Angeles. Of the deceased was Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

The NBA and its teams paid tribute in various ways to Bryant including shot clock and backcourt violations and All-Star Weekend adjustments, and some players wearing eight and 24 have picked new numbers.


Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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