This is the season the Central Cyclones senior boys basketball team has been looking forward to.
A high-scoring, defensively sound starting corps featuring five Grade 12s, with a near-equal complement of talent coming off the bench. The kind of talent and depth that hasn't been seen in the Moose Jaw High School Basketball League in many years, if at all.
It showed in their first game of the season in league play when Central rolled to a 122-41 win over the Peacock Tornadoes on Dec. 4. And head coach Ryan Boughen is hoping it'll show even more so as the season progresses and the Cyclones look to live up to one of the most promising seasons in decades.
“We're really fortunate, this is something we've been building to and we're looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish,” Boughen said. “We're going to be looking to push ourselves and test ourselves and see what we can do and hopefully that makes for a really good season.”
Central opened the season at the prestigious Bowlt Classic in Saskatoon during the Dec. 1 weekend and won their opener against Saskatoon Aden Bowman 89-58. That created a match-up with Saskatoon Holy Cross – the eventual tournament champions – and a 76-57 loss. Given the Crusaders' stature as one of the top 5A teams in the province, the loss was more of a learning experience for the Central, an example of where they need to get to in order to be at that level.
“It was really good for us, they played a physical game and had a couple of big guys inside who really dominated the offensive board,” Boughen explained. “But we think if we play them again we can make some adjustments... I was talking to the organizer of the Leboldus tournament and he was saying he wasn't sure if he wanted us in the same bracket as Holy Cross again and I was like 'no, no we want to play those guys again'. So, hopefully we get another shot and we'll see what we can do.”
The Cyclones have taken the unique approach of seeking out elite level tournaments throughout the season, including a stop at the Harry Ainlay Tri-Province Tournament in Edmonton during the Feb. 15 weekend.
“We're trying to stretch a bit with the tournaments we're going to this year, testing ourselves against some different teams,” Boughen said. “It's all part of developing as much as we can making sure we're playing our best basketball when it counts.” That'll include keeping things on as even a keel as possible in local action – if the results from opening night are any indication, motivation will be something the Cyclones will need to keep an eye on.
“We haven't played everyone yet, and Peacock lost some really good Grade 12s from last season, but if this is how the league is this year we'll still be working on things,” Boughen said. “We've set some defensive goals and things like that, and we're pushing ourselves in practice as much as we can. Now we just have to keep improving as much as we can and see what happens.”
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The Peacock Toilers also find themselves off to an impressive start in senior girls action, having reached the playoffs at the Bowlt Classic and then downed Central 82-65 in their season opener.
Peacock posted a 2-1 record in the round robin, defeating Swift Current 80-64 and Aden Bowman 52-37 to go along with a 79-64 loss to Saskatoon Centennial. That saw them advance to the bronze medal game where they dropped a 71-36 decision to Holy Cross.
In other boys league play from opening week, the Vanier Vikings also got off to a solid start as they rolled to a 107-39 win over Briercrest Christian Academy. Javan Panko scored 28 points for Vanier to lead all scorers, Riley Follensbee added 23, Musa Peter led BCA with 11 points. In the lone girls league game Dec. 6, Melissa Ellis scored 26 points as the BCA Cougars took a 67-37 win over the Vanier Spirits. Brooklyn Martens added 16 points for the Cougars, Emma Carter picked up 10. Vanier was led by Trinity Roberts with nine points.