GIMLI — The Gimli Lakers proved once again that they are the cream of the Zone 5 varsity boys’ basketball crop.
Six-foot-five forward Blake Magnusson poured in a game-high 26 points, while Grade 12 guard Brady Jonasson scored 15 points as the Lakers rolled to their third consecutive Zone 5 banner with a 79-42 victory over the visiting Warren Wildcats in the championship game on Feb. 20.
The final score wasn’t indicative of the way the season series between the two teams had gone. Gimli won both previous meetings, 49-46 on Jan. 21 and 60-41 on Feb. 13.
“It never is easy,” eighth-year Lakers head coach Chad Heminger said to The Interlake Spectator. “We played them three times this year … and this was the biggest spread. They were missing a starting point guard, which impacted the game a little bit, but we had a game plan and we executed.”
Gimli topped the Teulon Saints 75-25 in the semis earlier in the day, with Warren bouncing the Peguis Wolverines 64-43.
The Wildcats were without the director of their offence, Grade 12 student Asa France, who was competing for Manitoba in freestyle skiing’s slopestyle event at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. Nonetheless, France’s absnece wasn’t apparent in the first quarter.
Warren trailed 16-15 after 10 minutes, however, Cathy Pleskach’s group were outscored 52-11 in the next two quarters. The Wildcats simply weren’t able to keep up with the Lakers.
Six-foot-one forward Bren Hunter, said having France in the lineup would have helped tremendously.
“It would have made a lot of difference because he’s really fast and he gets the fast breaks going and really pushes the pace of the game,” said Hunter, a Grade 12 student. “He’s a really big part of our team.”
The Wildcats, who were led by fellow Grade 12 forward Ryan Peltz’s 10-point effort, struggled with their high-zone defence, and the Lakers continued to exploit it, while also playing more up tempo.
“They like to push the pace, so we matched the pace and found a kink in their defence on the high post,” Jonasson said. “So, we decided to execute that way.”
Heminger also noted the addition of three junior varsity players — Tommy Pitman, Matthew Yablonski and Michael Crave — was beneficial.
“Having our three JVs with us, too, they were a nice addition when we got them,” Heminger said. “It’s one of the first years we’ve had some quality depth on our team.”
Next up for Gimli is the high school AA provincial qualifer, which takes place in Roblin on March 2, and Jonasson hopes the Lakers are able to parlay the momentum from winning the zone title into a return trip to provincials, which are being hosted by the Immanuel Christian Falcons in Winnipeg from March 14 to 16.
“I think we’ve strictly got to stick together and play our game of basketball, and push the pace,” Jonasson added.
Despite dropping the Zone 5 final, the Wildcats received a second life. They too will play in a AA provincial qualifer in Carman on March 2.
Arborg sweeps A titles
The Arborg Athletics claimed both Zone 5 varsity boys’ and girls’ A banners on their home floor on Feb. 22.
The Arborg boys downed the St. Laurent Hawks 77-65 in the championship game, one day after the Athletics knocked off the Ashern Cobras 75-53 in the semis. The girls team defeated the Fisher River Hawks 88-7 in their final.
The boys’ squad will have two chances to qualify for A provincials at a provincial qualifier in Rosenort on March 2