Although they will have to settle for a silver medal, the Notre Dame High School Cougars proved they were a never say die kind of team after falling 83-78 to the Holy Trinity Knights in the final of the annual Cougar Classic Senior Boys’ Basketball Tournament in Red Deer last weekend.
“There was lots of times when the game could have slipped away from us. But we did manage to keep it close. We had it within range and we took the lead a couple of times and that shows a lot of heart,” said Cougars’ Head Coach Stephen Merredew of the Saturday night contest, which saw his team battle back from constant setbacks to momentarily take the lead in the first quarter before Holy Trinity surged ahead for the victory.
It wasn’t an easy night for the host team as right from the word go they found themselves in the slightly unfamiliar position of playing catch up to the Knights.
“They didn’t stop hitting shots. We had to defend them the whole game,” said Merredew.
Trinity quickly found a groove on the offensive side of the ball, notching a total of 16 points in the first quarter. Luckily for the Cougars, the Knights also got into a little bit of foul trouble, which they were able to exploit in order to keep the game close and head into the second quarter with a 17-16 lead.
But the Knights didn’t sit back on their heels for long. Tournament MVP Jordan Cyr knocked down five points in the second quarter while teammate Matt Scharien drained the first of his game high six three pointers as Holy Trinity tallied 17 points in the second quarter to promptly put themselves back on top.
And that offensive onslaught continued throughout the game, with Scharien and Cyr leading the charge with 18 and 13 points respectively.
“There was no lulls in their offense,” Merredew said, adding that defensively they weren’t able to come up with the rebounds they needed to win.
“We were giving up some size for sure. They had height on us in almost every position and that’s something you can’t really teach. Although the other two games this weekend we rebounded the ball excellent against teams that were our size or bigger. So whether that’s just a case of being a little worn down in our first tournament of the year is tough to say. But that’s something we definitely need to work on to play at that top level.”
Meanwhile, the Okotoks school’s defense set to work shutting down the NDHS offense, limiting them to just 10 points in the second quarter, including just four points from the field allowing the visitors to head into the half with a commanding 33-27 lead, which they continued to build on early in the third quarter.
Though they were down the Cougars were far from out. Cougars tournament All Star Vincent Martin exploded for seven points in the third to help rouse his team’s offense back to life as they stormed to 24 points in the quarter, nearly matching Trinity’s 26-point pace in the frame.
But the fourth quarter was where the Cougars really showed what they were capable of. Starting point guard Jeb Maribojoc bounced back from a slow first half to post a whopping 23 points in the fourth quarter alone. His game high 30 points along with his six assists and five steals helped the home team surge to within a single three pointer heading into the final minute of the game.
The comeback was not to be though. Trinity would record three more points in the last minute to seal the deal and take home the gold.
“We had to keep it coming the home game so I’m pretty proud of our effort for early season. We were able to go pretty deep into our bench during that game and keep it competitive, so I’m excited,” said Merredew, adding that for a team which had only played a single league game before this weekend, his crew looked pretty solid.
“It shows the guys where that level is at and where they need to be. This is the second tournament of the year for Holy Trinity, so they’re already a couple of steps ahead of us in terms of game readiness. But that’s a good team, that’s a legit team that makes provincials all the time out of the south. There’s no shame in being in a shootout with them for sure.”
The NDHS Cougars were back in action on Tuesday night when they took on the H.J. Cody Lakers in Sylvan Lake. The game was not over at press time.