Blues in tune to repeat
Defending champions battle the O'Leary Spartans tonight at 7 p.m. in the metro Edmonton premier men's basketball final
Saturday, Mar 03, 2012 06:00 am
The Paul Kane Blues are looking for a repeat performance in the metro Edmonton high school basketball final tonight, with a berth at provincials at stake.
A victory against the O’Leary Spartans in the premier men’s final would guarantee the defending league champions a return trip to the 4A provincial tournament. Game time is 7 p.m. at O’Leary High School. Admission is $3 and children 12 and under get in free.
“We’re really excited to get back to the final and defend our title,” said Grade 12 standout Tyler Wise. “Hopefully we’ll play a good game.”
The Blues are 10-1 in premier and 20-11 overall as the eighth-ranked 4A team in the province.
“We have some good confidence going right now. We’re firing on all cylinders and we’re working hard to get back to where we were last year,” Wise said.
The Spartans are tied for 10th place in the 4A rankings. The team’s only loss in 11 premier games was 71-46 last month at Paul Kane.
“Since they’re hosting the city final we’re going into their gym and it’s going to be a tough environment to play in,” Wise said. “As long as we come out and do the things we did right against them in that game we’ll be all right.”
The Blues reached the final by blasting the Bev Facey Falcons 79-59 in Wednesday’s semifinal at Paul Kane.
After a tight first half the Blues pulled away to lead 60-48 with 10 minutes remaining.
Wise was the top scorer with 20 points and Khalil Bertin added 18.
“We came out a little bit slow but we knew at halftime we needed to pick things up. We had a good talk and came out firing and it turned out pretty good for us,” Wise said.
In last year’s final the Blues squeaked out a 72-69 win over Facey for their third premier title in five years. Eight players remain from the 29-12 campaign that ended with an eighth-place finish for the Blues at their first provincials since winning gold in 2008.
“Last year we were on a good run going into the city final leading up to provincials,” Wise said. “This year we’ve got a lot of veteran leaders on the team and we’re setting an example for the three new guys. We’re keeping them in a zone and making sure they’re ready just as much as we are.”
The Blues are also playing a tougher brand of defence in their quest for premier honours.
“That’s probably been one of our stronger improvements this year and we’re looking to incorporate that in the final as we try and take home another city title,” said Wise, 17, a six-foot-six forward who has committed to the Alberta Golden Bears.
FREE THROWS: If the Blues lose tonight’s final, they’ll play host to the third playoff finisher in next week’s Edmonton zone elimination tournament. That game would go Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. Five teams will represent Edmonton at the 16-team provincials, March 15 to 17 in Raymond.
A premier victory would send the Blues into Thursday’s zone final against the public league champion to determine who will be seeded first from Edmonton at provincials. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at Concordia University College.
Last year the Blues were seeded eighth at provincials as the third Edmonton qualifier after losing the zone final 90-68 to the Harry Ainlay Titans and the second-third place game 87-72 to the Jasper Place Rebels.