Two St. Albert basketball players will represent Alberta at nationals this summer as two of the top 12 players in the province in their respective age groups.
Following tryouts last weekend, Khalil Bertin, 15, and Lyndon Bolanac, 17 survived the final rounds of cuts and will represent Alberta at tournaments across North America this summer, including nationals.
Bolanac, 17, a tower of power for the Paul Kane Blues last year, made the U17 juvenile squad and will likely play forward for the provincial team. The six-foot-seven standout, known for his size and accuracy outside the arc, tried to impress the coaches at tryouts with his work ethic.
“I thought I worked really hard and tried my best. I always tried to be the first to finish races and sprints and stuff.
“I bring a lot of height to the team and I bring a lot of shooting.”
The U17 nationals run in August in Prince Edward Island. Beforehand, the U17s will play tournaments in Lethbridge, participate in the Western Canada Games in Winnipeg and show their stuff in a tournament in Las Vegas before the national tournament.
“I just hope to get out of my comfort zone,” said Bolanac. “I grew up in St. Albert.”
Bertin won’t be Bolanac’s teammate this summer, but the 15-year-old guard/forward could be next year when he starts his first year of high school at Paul Kane. The Vincent J. Maloney and SLAM basketball product made the midget U15 provincial team.
“I just thought if I acted and used leadership and if I was always vocal on the court, that would help,” Bertin said of his approach to the provincial tryouts.
Bertin doesn’t know what position he’ll be playing for the U15s, who will play tournaments in Calgary and Saskatoon before heading to nationals in Kamloops, B.C. in August. But he does know what he brings to the team.
“My strength is attack to the basket and my defensive abilities.”
Bertin recognizes the experience will help his chances of making the Blues when school starts in the fall.
“Just trying out and being able to make the team, playing with the best in the country, I know it will help my all around game and taking a different role I don’t take over the summer, I’ll get better in different areas.”
Water polo nationals
An intentional kick to the stomach and ribs didn’t keep St. Albert product Meghan Loerke from giving her all at the recent U18 water polo nationals in Winnipeg, Man.
The 16-year-old coach with the St. Albert Sailfish took up the sport two years ago at the suggestion of a couple of parents from Spruce Grove, home to the Spruce Grove Polar Bears. This year the team didn’t have enough players to field a full team in nationals, so a coach from a team in Winnipeg contacted Loerke and asked if she would play for them during the tournament that ran over the long weekend.
“It was a lot more aggressive because people were wanting to win and stuff like that, so they played harder,” said the Paul Kane student, confirming all the rumours about what happens under the waterline during a water polo match. During one game, an opponent deliberately kicked her in the stomach, below the water where the referees couldn’t see.
“There’s kicking, scratching and punching. It’s all true.”
After arriving in Winnipeg, Loerke, who’s been swimming since the age of two, managed to practice once with her adoptive team before playing 10 games over the weekend.
“It was like other tournaments but it was more organized and the officials and scores were better,” Loerke said. “There were more teams.”
Her Winnipeg club managed a 12th-place finish at nationals with Loerke playing swim ball — the position where one player from each team swims to the middle of the pool to get to the ball first — and scoring goals. Although she can’t count how many she scored, Loerke said she enjoyed the experience.
“It was pretty easy because their team is pretty good and they know what they’re doing and they helped. They showed me plays and what they were doing.”