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Thursday, 28 March 2013 10:11

Cardston students celebrate big sports wins

Written by  Westwind School Division
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Cardston students celebrate big sports wins Photo by Westwind School Division

It’s not often a history lesson plays out before a packed school gymnasium. But then again, it’s not often such an educational moment is accompanied by heart-tugging speeches, championship banners, a musical tribute and free barbecue.

Cardston High School celebrated the history-setting, provincial-title victories by both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams with a special assembly March 21.
Between team introductions, highlight footage of both title victories and a rousing set from the CHS band, students learned just how unique those hoop achievements in Calgary were.
It was the first time both the boys and girls teams brought home the 4A provincial basketball hardware, thanks to the first-ever 4A provincial title for the Lady Cougars and a repeat performance by the Cougars, who had not won a provincial title since 1954 prior to last year.
Councillor Tim Court, speaking on behalf of Mayor Rick Schow, pointed out only three times has a school taken home both 4A titles in the same year, and undoubtedly the first ever when the head coaches were brothers.
“When (the boys) won it last year I thought that’s very fortunate — we’ve been 58 years and I wonder how long it’s going to be before we can do this again because it’s not easy,” said Principal Dallen Leavitt. “They used to say we had a pretty good team, but now I am saying you know what, we have a pretty good program and that was shown this year with both the boys and girls winning this championship.”
The Lady Cougars victory was especially heartfelt by assistant coach Ken McMurray, who warned the crowd he would likely get a little choked up during his speech. He wasn’t the only member of the coaching staff to get misty-eyed at times.
“I’ve been in this game all my life and been to the ‘big dance’ four times — once as a player and three as a coach — and when you get to that point and you keep coming away empty, you sometimes wonder is this ever going to happen for me?” said McMurray, who was grateful head coach Steve Quinton asked him to help out this season, since he hadn’t planned on doing any coaching.
He recalled rushing onto the court when the boys won last year and commenting to assistant coach Doug Sheen, “You know what, the lid is off. Finally.” McMurray noted that teams coached by college basketball great John Wooden lost time after time before UCLA would go on to win 11-straight championships.
“Because we won I guarantee you, we’ll win it again,” he said.
Steve Quinton said the girls took inspiration from the boys provincial title last season with forward Logan Moncks — named a first team league all-star along with teammate Larsyn Webster — telling him it was the girls turn this year.
He pointed out praise is deserved not only for the players, but the CHAMPS basketball program that inspires young players to be a Cougar, and their many coaches in the years in between.
A supportive school administration and staff play a role, said Steve, as do parents who encourage their children to work hard and respect their coaches, teammates and opponents. The final ingredient for success came in the fans, who flocked to Calgary to show their support.
“We saw that on Saturday. I don’t know, was that Crescent Heights or was that Cardston High School up there? Give yourselves a round of applause,” said Steve, who was named co-winner as the Southern Alberta High School Basketball League’s Varsity Coach of the Year.
Cougars head coach Kevin Quinton had his players look at the provincial plaque their first practice this season and noted that only three times had a boys team repeated as 4A champs.
While they knew their opponents would all be gunning for them, the team set a goal of doing just that. They also set a number of other, lofty goals and while they accomplished many of them, Kevin told his players to remember how bad it felt when they fell short on a couple.
He urged the students in the bleachers to set goals for themselves — lofty ones.
“If you don’t set goals in your life you’re not going to gradually climb that ladder to where you want to be. Same thing in school, try and be the best you can be. All these kids, they might not have a career in basketball, but their education is going to take them somewhere,” said Kevin.
Assistant coach Sheen said he knew they had the makings of another championship team, and praised the knowledge and desire of his head coach for molding them into one.
“He tells it how it is and some of the time I think ‘gee whiz Kevin, you’re pretty tough on these kids.’ But I bet they all love and respect him if you asked them, because I know I do,” he said.
Westwind School Division Superintendent Ken Sommerfeldt offered congratulations to CHS for their “significant contribution to excellence.”
He was among the many local fans who travelled to Calgary for the provincials and noted the rollercoaster of emotions the boys semi-final win over
St. Francis Xavier provided. The back-and-forth game saw opposing fans in front of him erupt into cheers at times, before Lincoln Anderson’s buzzer-beating basket in overtime finally snatched the air out of them with an audible ‘whoosh.’
“And it was wonderful,” said Sommerfeldt, as the crowd cheered in agreement.
Court, a former teacher at CHS, called the players great ambassadors for the Town of Cardston and thanked them for putting the community in such a positive light.
“Mayor and council recognize that the successes of our high-school sports teams offer a rallying point for town pride, and thank all who continually offer their support by attending the games of our sports teams,” he read from an official statement. “These young people are our treasure and our future; we are proud of their concurrent championships, an impressive achievement. Go Cougars Go.”
Other Westwind athletes and coaches were recognized by the Southern Alberta High School Basketball League at its awards night.
Raymond’s Sunder West was named a first-team girls all-star, with teammate Makell Hofer and Magrath’s Teesha Olson on the second team. Magrath’s Brad Olson was JV Coach of the Year.
In 4A boys, Cardston’s Lincoln Anderson was named Varsity MVP, while fellow Cougar Joel Lutz was named a first-team all-star and Riley Sheen a second-team all-star.
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