The junior boys basketball team at Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) may not have come home with a provincial banner like they wanted, but a 12th-place finish is a big step forward.
Going into the tournament, the Rainmakers were seeded 12th, and didn’t fall from that position. Last year, the team went in seeded 15th and ended up in 26th place after losing four of five games.
This time, the boys won the crucial first game, guaranteeing they would finish in the top 16.
“There were some moments when they were playing fantastic basketball. It was fun to watch. That’s the kind of stuff that gets me excited, when I see the guys playing really good, pure basketball,” said coach Kevin Sawka.
In the opening game of the tournament, the Rainmakers held off Guildford Park 54-56, but the team lost the following game to R.E. Mountain, 50-37, a game Sawka said the team was especially unhappy with.
“We feel if we played them 10 times, we would have beaten them nine times out of 10. A couple of things went really wrong in that game,” he said.
Specifically, the Rainmakers’ shooting game struggled on an oddly-painted court that may have thrown the boys off.
The following day, the ‘Makers won again, this time versus Prince George Secondary School, 47-36, bringing their record to 2-1. On Monday, the team fell to first-seeded Lord Tweedsmuir in their most lopsided game, 73-29.
In the final game, the team lost 37-30 to Yale. Sawka said at that point, the team was drained mentally and physically. When all was said and done, CHSS finished 12th out of 32 teams.
“The story of our whole tournament was our rebounding just wasn’t good enough. For the most part, we would play solid defence but then not take care of the rebound. Eventually, the other team is going to get a hoop,” Sawka said.
Another issue for the team might have been the demand for constant, maximum effort all the time, said the coach.
But there were plenty of good things too. At times, the team played fantastic basketball and many players stepped up. The coach of 17 seasons mentioned Eric Lees as one player that really stood out, especially defensively.
“This year, he was our best defender. He was the one guy that stood up to guard the best team’s players each game. He was a big improvement on last year,” he said.
Despite the disappointment of not winning the banner, the coach is proud of the Rainmakers’ season.
“I usually measure the success of each year, not just by our record, but by how much growth there was in all of our players. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find one kid on our team that says they didn’t improve on multiple facets of their game this year. It’s definitely been successful,” Sawka said.
“I’m just proud of all their efforts and the time spent with them has been valuable as always.”