Coming off a year where they won the Moose Jaw league championship and reached the Hoopla final for the second straight season, the Cyclones had almost their entire line-up returning, including seven Grade 12s who brought an almost unheard of level of strength and depth to the local squad.
The results speak for themselves – Central capped their league schedule with a perfect 8-0 record and more importantly set a pair of team marks, breaking their own record from last season with 934 points scored to go along with surrendering only 326 points.
That is on top of a handful of impressive tournament performances while focussing on elite, 5A-level events, something Cyclones head coach Ryan Boughen feels has helped prepare his squad for the important games coming up.
“When we looked at building our tournament schedule last spring, we thought we were going to be in a little tough because we had put together a quite a bit tougher tournament schedule,” Boughen explained. “We thought that would be good for us, but we probably didn’t think we’d do as well as we have done.
“This time last year, prior to North Battleford we had only one more loss compared to this year, and that says a lot because we went from playing 4A tournaments to every tournament we played in being a 5A tournament, or a top-ranked tournament like the Harry Ainlay in Edmonton. So it’s been it a bit of a surprise to see things go as well as they have.”
The North Battleford tournament marked their most recent success, as the Cyclones reached the final before dropping a 59-58 decision to Lloydminster Composite. The loss was especially unusual in that Central had outscored their opposition by 60 points or more leading up to the final.
“If we shoot the ball well we win that game 88 or 89-59,” Boughen said. “Our defence did everything they could do and typically we have more kids hitting shots, but that’s basketball. As coaches we were happy with how we played, we just didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. But they were really, really long. They had two six-seven kids, a six-three kid who was really athletic… it was a good learning experience for the guys.”
Interestingly enough, other than that contest, it’s been lights out from the beginning for Central. While they aren’t the tallest team – Grade 12s Crozier Holmes and Jaxson Brownell top out the height scale at 6-foot-2 – their outside presence has been terrifying, with a Grade 12 corps led by Kyle Boughen, Riley Seaborn, Ethan Johnson, Fharis Ebet and Hardil Khubber often essentially taking turns leading the team in scoring.
“Our style of play lends ourselves to not having to be too big and we’ve had some really nice play from Jaxson and Crozier inside taking on big guys, so even though they’re six-two, they’ve battled hard and that’s helped us a lot,” Boughen said. “Then our perimeter guys, it’s obvious we’d stack them up against anybody. Holy Cross is the top team in Saskatoon and Leboldus is the top team in Regina and those are huge wins for us, and our outside shooting was great in both those games… one of our second goals of the year was to be one of the top teams in the province and we’re right there.”
The key now is to finish what they’ve started. The Cyclones won their semifinal game Tuesday 120-39 over Briercrest Christian Academy and will face Peacock in the championship final. Then there’s regionals and Hoopla, where Central has lost to Weyburn the last two seasons.
“We say we’ve yet to accomplish what we really want to accomplish,” Boughen said. “Everything else has been nice and we’re really happy for the kids, but in the end we’re chasing something that has gotten away from us the last couple of years. So that’s still what we’re after. We’re putting ourselves in the best position we can be in, and in the end it’ll be what it can be, but we’re certainly working toward it.”