SFX Sports Centre – The Paul Kane Blues are hoping to fly under the radar screen towards a three-peat in metro Edmonton high school basketball.
“We’ll be underdogs this year,” predicted Jacob Laxdal, a Grade 11 post. “Everyone thinks we’re not going to be very good but I think we’re going to be good competition for the city finals.”
The two-time defending premier conference champions and eighth-place finishers at the 2012 4A provincials replaced eight graduates with two Grade 11 and five Grade 10 players.
Laxdal, Grade 12 forward Mark Sherstan and Grade 11 guard Zane Warren are the only returnees from the 11-1 Blues in premier and the team’s 23-15 overall showing last season.
“We have a lot of young guys on our team but they look good,” Laxdal said. “It’s going to be a fun year.”
The Blues made their season debut in Thursday’s 71-68 overtime win over the Catholic Central Cougars of Lethbridge in the round of 16 at the 15th annual Mike Dea Classic tournament.
“This game was very important for us. They were very highly talked about on the websites. Everyone thought they would win, but we came out with the W,” said Laxdal.
He was encouraged by the team’s resilience against Catholic Central’s line-up of four returning Cougars and six Grade 12s.
“They had more size than us so we knew we had to play our hardest,” said Paul Kane’s tallest player at six-foot-four. “We passed and ran our offence good. It’s a brand new offence. Rick (Stanley, the third-year Paul Kane head coach) has never ran it before, so we talked and got through the screens and did our best.”
Down by four after the first quarter, the Blues took their first lead of the game at 23-22 on Sherstan’s field goal and stayed on top until the Cougars closed out the first half with five straight points to make it 31-29.
The Blues opened and closed the third quarter with Laxdal’s three-pointer and a field goal by Grade 10 forward Quinn Peterson during a back-and forth affair that ended deadlocked at 43 apiece.
With a minute remaining in regulation time, Warren’s jumper tied it at 55 and Laxdal forced overtime with a low-post move with 24 seconds to go.
In the five minute extra period, three-balls by Peterson and Laxdal 35 seconds apart left the Cougars trailing 67-59 with 2:54 left in the frame.
The Cougars clawed back to close the gap at 70-68, but fouled Warren after he grabbed an offensive rebound with 14 ticks on the clock. Warren made one of two free throws to close out the scoring.
“It was pretty exciting. It was definitely a big moment for us to win it. We were underdogs coming into this game and we stepped up and got the job done,” Peterson said. “We stopped their best player (Grade 12 guard Nico Pasquotti had 26 points before fouling out with 14 seconds left in overtime), played solid D and got open shots.”
The Blues had three starters foul out, including Laxdal, who was tagged with a phantom fifth foul on an inbound play by the Cougars in their end with 43 seconds left in overtime. The Cougars then cut the lead to two points with a free throw.
Laxdal, 16, tossed in a team-high 23 points, including two threes and 16 points in the second half. The 2012 cadet provincial player shrugged off a turnover in the Paul Kane end on a steal by the Cougars that resulted in the go-ahead layup at 57-55 with 30 seconds remaining to deliver a clutch basket to tie the game.
“You’ve just got to play through something like that,” Laxdal said. “It frustrated me that happened but I came back and got us that basket to put us in overtime.”
The Blues never relinquished the lead in overtime after Warren’s field goal and Sherstan’s put-back right off the bat left the Cougars scrambling to catch up.
“We just kept our heads up – never gave up,” Laxdal said.
Warren had 16 points in the win and Peterson drained 12 of his 20 points after halftime. Peterson also led the Blues in three-balls with four.
“He just took over. He had a lot of three point shots,” Laxdal said.
The six-foot-two newcomer pumped in back-to-back threes to even the count at 19 early in the second quarter and nailed a three in the fourth quarter to make it 52-49.
“I guess it just came to me. It was just one of those days,” said Peterson, a member of the 2012 provincial midget team.
He chose Paul Kane as his high school after attending Grade 9 at St. Edmund School in north Edmonton.
“It was because of the coach (Stanley). The basketball here is great too. It was a good decision,” said Peterson, 15.
FREE THROWS: In Thursday’s quarter-finals the Blues lost 80-53 to Vancouver College, a well-known private school.
Friday the Blues and the rival O’Leary Spartans hooked up but the score was unavailable at press time. The winner advances to the fifth/sixth place game at noon and the loser is in the seventh/eighth place game at 10 a.m. in today’s schedule. Last year the Blues finished third in the tournament.
Monday the Blues play at home against the Bev Facey Falcons in exhibition action at 4:45 p.m.