Elite win pro­vin­cial ti­tle

Moose Jaw wins gold, bronze in U17 boys divi­sion as tour­na­ment hosts.

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - RANDY PALMER

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.

RANDY PALMER/TIMES-HER­ALD

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.

RANDY PALMER/TIMES-HER­ALD

Okony Okak of the Moose Jaw Spar­tans puts up a shot dur­ing the U17 boys pro­vin­cial bronze medal game.

RANDY PALMER/TIMES-HER­ALD

Moose Jaw Elite guard Ryan Ste­fanovic breaks up the court dur­ing the gold medal game against Lights Out.

RANDY PALMER/TIMES-HER­ALD

Boys U13 round robin ac­tion be­tween the Moose Jaw Ballers and P.A. Lak­ers.

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