Elite win provincial title
Moose Jaw wins gold, bronze in U17 boys division as tournament hosts.
If there was any question as to the calibre of Moose Jaw basketball now and in the future, it was answered this past weekend — and things are looking especially positive at the high school level.
The Moose Jaw Elite took first place and Moose Jaw Spartans third at the Basketball Saskatchewan provincial U17 boys club championships at Peacock on Sunday. It was part of a massive weekend of basketball in the city as 48 teams from throughout the province took part in the U13, U15 and U17 boys and girls tournaments.
The Elite defeated Humboldt Lights out 82-77 in the gold medal game despite trailing by as much 12 in the first half.
“We played these guys yesterday and we lost and we were down by 30 at one point and we weren’t playing with very much energy,” said guard Ryan Stefanovic, who had 17 points in the contest, the majority coming as part of the Elite’s second-half rally.
“Our coach, my brother, said if we played with energy we could beat anybody, make sure we get good shots and play hard defence and we could beat anybody in the province … we just did that. We ground it out and found a way to do it.”
The Elite used balance to get the job done. In addition to Stefanovic’s output, Ronald Nyekowat scored 20 and Riley Follensbee added 15 points. Payton Chow picked up nine but was singled out by his teammate for his performance at the other end of the court.
“Chow made a really, really big impact, his shot wasn’t going down in the first half but he’s our best defender and he was clamping down on guys,” Stefanovic said. “That was huge.”
The Elite trailed 20-16 after the first quarter and 37-32 at the half. Things changed after the break, tough, and the Moose Jaw rally started. The result was a 59-57 lead through three quarters, an edge they would never relinquish.
“Overall we’re a pretty horrible team for slow starts, so we need to get over that,” said coach Matt Stefanovic. “Lights Out is a great team and if you give them any space they’re going to shoot the lights out on you, just like their name. But if we can overcome that slow start, we’re a team that can be reckoned with and we showed that as the game went on.”
The Elite’s success provided an interesting juxtaposition with the Spartans, a team made up of Central high school youngsters — they lost the semifinal to Lights Out but rallied for a commanding 80-52 win over the Prince Albert Lakers in the bronze medal game.
“Moose Jaw basketball is on the upand-up and those guys over on the Spartans are a big part of that, too,” said Ryan Stefanovic. “They started playing club basketball when they were, like, 10-years-old and invited me to play with them. It was an eye-opening experience and I’m really thankful they did that.”
In the U15 boys draw, the Spartans dropped the bronze medal game while the Moose Jaw Ballers went 2-2 in the U13 boys round robin only draw.
Members of the Moose Jaw Elite gather for the customary team photo after winning the Basketball Sask. Under-17 club provincial championship at Peacock on Sunday.
Okony Okak of the Moose Jaw Spartans puts up a shot during the U17 boys provincial bronze medal game.
Moose Jaw Elite guard Ryan Stefanovic breaks up the court during the gold medal game against Lights Out.
Boys U13 round robin action between the Moose Jaw Ballers and P.A. Lakers.