Spartan Classic a big test before March’s provincial championships

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The Spartan Classic has always been a tournament where Olds High School’s senior basketball teams could test themselves against stiffer competition than they’d face in league play.

This weekend, it will serve as a key barometer of how OHS fares against teams they could very well host at the ASAA 3A provincial championship.

For the first time since 2005, Kent Lorenz’s girls were champions last year, beating the Holy Trinity Academy Knights from Okotoks to win the Classic.

Those Knights are back and are currently the No. 2-ranked 3A team in Alberta.

“They’re a very strong team. We beat them last year in our tournament and most of their team’s returning so we’ll know we’ll have a very strong game if we reach the final against them. Very good team; well coached,” Lorenz said.

The ASAA released its first rankings for this season earlier this month. They’re decided by a committee that considers four criteria, in order: body of work, strength of schedule, head-to-head, and common opponents.

“It’s big for provincials because whatever zone has the most ranking points, gets more spots at provincials,” said Tom Christensen, senior boys coach.

“If South Central Zone has three teams in the Top 10, that means three teams from our zone would be at provincials here.”

The Spartans girls are not ranked, not even an honourable mention. Not that it matters, since they’re the provincial hosts. And neither does Lorenz feel snubbed.

“We had a slow start to the season and lost a couple close games in our first two tournaments. We probably would have been ranked a little higher had we won them. It’s a process, it’s about getting better and peaking. We know we’re in it right until the end of the year with provincials.”

At 4:45 p.m. this Friday at the Ralph Klein Centre, Olds High School plays against Innisfail.

The girls tournament is rounded off by H.J. Cody, George McDougall, Holy Trinity (Edmonton), Strathmore, Holy Trinity (Okotoks), and Lacombe.

“Last two years, it’s been some of the best teams in the province. It’s good to see where we’re at. There’s not a bad team that comes to this tournament,” said senior player Katie Collin.

Fellow senior Rieley Jensen added: “Our league is a lot weaker so it’s good to have a tournament like this where we can challenge ourselves.”

On Friday at 6:30 p.m., the Spartans will tip off against David Thompson High, an honourable mention among 2A schools.

The rest of the boys’ draw includes George McDougall, Lacombe Composite, H.J. Cody, Innisfail, Holy Trinity Academy (Okotoks) and Rocky Mountain House.

Four of those teams are either ranked or named honourable mentions within their respective categories.

Senior wing player Sukhraj Dhaliwal is in his second year with the Spartans. He said that beating teams of that calibre gives them a spark.

“Seeing us defeat ranked teams gives us that extra motivation to compete better,” he said. “Since we’re hosting provincials, we need to compete with some of the best 3A schools.”

Christensen predicts his team will make the final four.

“They’re all good. We played Holy Trinity earlier and competed with them. They just pulled away in the last quarter. It’ll be nice to play George Mac, see how well we match up against them,” he said.

“Our biggest thing is, we’re inexperienced. We need to play those teams. I’ll have as many as three Grade 10s starting. So if they don’t play those teams, we’re just not going to be there by March. Sometimes it’s painful because they’re proud and they’re young kids but that’s the only way we’re going to get better.”

jho@olds.greatwest.ca

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