Tough defence vaults Knights to Cardinal Classic title

Knight time arrived with a tournament title for the first time in two seasons.

The third trip to a tournament final was the charm for the Holy Trinity Academy Knights senior girls with improved passing, rebounding and team defence producing a gold medal at Bishop Carroll’s Cardinal Classic.

“Last year we took the bronze in this one so we were going into it hopeful we could improve on that,” said Knights co-head coach Andrew Gustafson. “To take home the championship, it means a lot to us, it’s a big win to our team and I think we’ve got some really good forward momentum.

“We’ve been in two tournament finals so far this year and taken silver in them so it’s nice to get that monkey off our back.”      

In the opener, HTA outlasted William Aberhart 73-71 in its tightest game of the competition.

Kateri Krueger, the Knights’ tournament MVP, led the way with 22 points, 14 rebounds and six steals. Tournament all-star Eva Gustafson added five steals and six assists.

“They outsized us and they’re pretty good in the open court, same as we are,” the coach added. “It came right down to the wire, and we haven’t had a super close game like that yet this year.

“It was really awesome to have that experience of what it feels like to pull it together in a critical moment at the end of the game.”

The second match saw the Knights overpower Bishop O’Byrne 69-38. Krueger brought down 14 rebounds, while Gustafson corralled seven steals. Olivia Fuhr earned player of the game honours for a terrific effort in both shooting and energy.

In the final, HTA was too much for All Saints in 64-45 triumph. Paige McNichol had 20 points and 11 rebounds with Krueger again dominating on the glass with 16 rebounds. Ava Kaack and Sierra Dudar, the All-Hustle Award winner, both posted seven boards.

“The things we’ve struggled with so far this season is great ball movement, our turnovers have been high and as a result our assists have been low,” Gustafson said. “We managed to fix that, our turnovers were really low where we needed them to be and we had 59 assists.

“It tells us we’re moving the ball way better which means we’re getting better looks.”

Holding opposition to under 50 points on two of three occasions was also a feather in the cap of the Okotoks school.

“That’s the biggest highlight, in my mind,” the coach added.

The tournament title wasn’t the only silverware brought home by the Knights on the weekend.

The HTA senior boys, ranked ninth at the 4A level, earned the bronze medal at St. Mary’s’ Saints Classic with two wins in three games with their shooting game not at its apex.

“We played some really good calibre teams this weekend,” said Knights head coach Sam Aiello. “Our guys played well and just this last week we’ve been struggling shooting the ball a little bit consistently and that’s probably the first time this season where we’ve had that struggle.”

The Knights knocked off the sixth-ranked Western 76-71 in the bronze medal match. HTA lost the semifinal 80-56 to the host St. Mary’s, ranked third, and earlier overpowered ME Lazerte 71-51 in its icebreaker.

Rebounding and team defence took on added importance with the outside shooting slightly off the mark.

“That really was the challenge this last week, if we’re not shooting well are we able to muster up some victories?” Aiello said. “Our defence has got to be lights out, limit them to one shot and out and really rebound the basketball and try and work our way out of that shooting funk.

“Our guys responded to that really well.”

Xavier Krueger, who serves up more double-doubles than a morning shift at Tim Hortons, was named the Knights’ tournament all-star.

This weekend, the Knights boys are in Edmonton for the annual Father Michael Troy Basketball Classic hosted by St. Joseph.

In exhibition action, both Knights teams make the crosstown trek to Foothills Composite for a double-header on Feb. 13 at the Comp.

First appeared on www.westernwheel.ca

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