Winners all around at Wolves Senior Classic
TERRY FARRELL - Herald-Tribune sports editor
For the eighth straight season, the high school basketball season unofficially tipped off at the Grande Prairie Regional College, with the Wolves Senior Basketball Classic.
And, for the eighth straight season, organizer Chris Nicol can declare a resounding success.
"We had 16 boys and 16 girls teams, from all over the Peace, and as far away as Northwest Territories," explained Nicol. "This year we also had a team from Edmonton, as well as teams from Westlock and Barrhead, which was nice. It's always good to see teams from other areas. And for our teams, it's always good for them to see teams other than those in the immediate area."
Good for local fans, and good for Nicol, as well. As head coach of the GPRC Wolves, the tournament is used as an opportunity for him to do a bit of early season scouting for future recruits.
"I like to look at this as kind of a win-win, win-win-win kind of thing," he said. "Certainly if there are kids we are interested in, it gives us an early look at them and maybe an early pitch to them. With the local teams it gives them a chance to see a variety of teams, from a variety of locations, without the usual travel involved.
"Our local parents like it, because they can watch their kids play basketball at home and even the parents from places like Fort St. John like it because they can come to Grande Prairie with their kids, turn it into a 'watch my son play – slash – get some shopping done' kind of trip."
This year's boys' side featured no surprises, when it came to the championship game. Grande Prairie Composite met St. Joe's for the gold.
"I had the bracket set up with the Comp as the sort of number-one seed and St. Joe's and High Level as 2 and 2A on the other side of the bracket, and then Fort St. John as the fourth seed." explained Nicol. "So had either St. Joe's or High Level made the final it would not have been a shock."
Had High Level made the final, the last game may have been closer, but it would not have provided for as intense a gold medal match.
The majority of players on the Tomahawks and Celtics play on the same team in summer ball, so there was a lot of familiarity on the floor.
"I really expected it to be a close match and it was for a while," said Nicol. "Emotions were pretty high. It was 18-18 in the first quarter, but the Comp had a good, solid second quarter and then took off in the third quarter. It ended up being 104-51.
"The St. Joe's boys looked pretty tired, but I expect tonight's (Wednesday night league game) to be a really close match."
The Comp Totems beat the Northwest Territories in the girls' championship match.
"It was a really good match – a real barn-burner," said Nicol. "I don't have the final score, but it was a one-point ball game with two minute left, before (NWT) had to start fouling."
The Totems eventually won by nine (score unavailable).
Taylor Pillsworth of the Comp was named the girls' tournament MVP and Sam Carstairs of the Comp was the boys' MVP.
The tournament also provided Nicol with a rare opportunity to see his son play ball. Josh Nicol is a Grade 11 player with the Tomahawks, but Chris's duties at the college conflict with Josh's basketball schedule.
So not only was Chris a college scout at the tournament, he was also a cheering parent in the stands.
And how did Josh do?
"I was talking to some of the assistant coaches around and they were telling me 'he's the best player on the floor right now.'"
Spoken like a typical parent.