Locals enjoy all-star basketball experience

Matthew Gourlie
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Seniors cap off season against the province's best

REGINA — A week ago four area basketball players didn't even know the Dayton Homes Senior Basketball Classic.

After they played in the inaugural boys and girls provincial senior all-star game, all of them felt it was a great way to cap off their senior seasons.

"I had no idea. I got picked and they told me I had to decide that Tuesday. I was freaking out, but I said 'yeah for sure. I have a lot of homework, but I guess I better just throw that away,"" said Caronport's Lauren Janzen with a laugh.

Janzen was the only girl chosen from the Moose Jaw High School Basketball League. She and her South teammates beat the North 92-70 Saturday night at Balfour Collegiate in Regina.

The North boys got some revenge as they beat the South 96-86. The South team featured Central's Aidan Saladana and Peacock's Jacob Laxdal and Ryder Epoch.

Laxdal has family ties to Moose Jaw, but grew up in St. Albert, Alta. Unlike a lot of the provincial-team program veterans who were featured he didn't know a lot of the other players involved, but he did have previous all-star game experience. Last year he played in the Edmonton Metro all-star game that is for the top local basketball players regardless of grade.

"It was very similar to this, but I've never played in an all-Saskatchewan game. I didn't know many guys, but I got to know some of the South players over the day," said Laxdal. "It was a great way to end the season."

Laxdal and Epoch weren't sure the level of defensive intensity that was going to be required, but it didn't take long to realize it was going to be a real basketball game — and a good one at that.

"I wasn't sure if it was going to be a no-defence kind of game or if it was going to be a tight game like this was. It was a competitive game. I think that's more fun than an NBA all-star, no defence kind of game," said Epoch. "I got better just playing in this game with all of the talent that was here. It was a good experience for everyone."

Epoch played the entire second half and Saladana wasn't far away from it as the South tried to push to get back into the game. Six-foot-eight Balfour star Mitch Jackson scored 22 for the South and Atlee Simon from Regina Harvest City scored 14 to try to spark a comeback. Epoch had 14 while playing point guard.

"I liked that. It was a lot of fun," said Epoch. "Considering we're a smaller school I thought it would be a lot of Regina and Saskatoon. There was a P.A. player on the north team. It was good that they looked at the whole province and not just the big cities."

Mitch Proctor from Saskatoon Evan Hardy was the game's most valuable player. Proctor led all scorers with 28 points and hit seven three-pointers. When the game was in doubt Proctor scored 18 points in the fourth quarter for the North to ice the game.

Laxdal had six points in the first half before he sat for most of the second half with three fouls. Saladana also had six points, but had a few blocks on the defensive end.

"That was awesome. It was a lot of fun and a great way to cap off my high school career," said Saladana. "It was fast. It was back-and-forth and pretty quick. You have to work harder and that adds to the fun of it. It adds to the speed and intensity."

For Saladana it was likely his last competitive basketball game. He was the Sask. Volleyball under-18 male player of the year and is looking to play CIS volleyball next year and said he is leaning towards the University of Alberta, but that wasn't set in stone yet.

Epoch said that he and Laxdal are going to some university ID camps and are looking into a few places, but neither is sure what they're doing next year.

Janzen scored 22 points a week earlier to lead the Cougars to the 3A Hoopla title. Though she admitted to some early nerves, the North Battleford product was happy to get the chance to play against the best players in the province.

"It was really exciting to be chosen," said Janzen who attended Carport high school for three years. "It was an honour to play with all of these girls. They have such great talent and skill, so it was just nice to be on a team where everybody was almost at the same level. It was a challenge to keep up playing against (Katie Farmer from Saskatoon Aden Bowman), but challenges always make you better."

Farmer led the North with 13 points, while Sasha Lichtenwald from Saskatoon St. Joseph added 12 points.

The South led by 12 at the half and were in control for most of the girls game. Christina McCusker from Regina Campbell led all scorers with 15 points and Rebecca Burns from Regina Riffel added 14 points.

Morgan Dool from Notre Dame scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half before being cut over the eye early in the second half. She finished the game once the bleeding was stemmed and was named game MVP.

Janzen, who is hoping to play for Briercrest College in the fall, scored four points, but made some piercing passes to set up her teammates for easy baskets.

Basketball Saskatchewan handed out some year-end awards after the games.

Shinelle Handzuik from Regina Campbell and Simon won the Basketball Saskatchewan dedication awards. Both played for the provincial team for three straight years.

Lichtenwald was named Miss Saskatchewan Basketball and Sam Hillis was named Mr. Saskatchewan Basketball.

Organizations: Briercrest College, Moose Jaw High School Basketball League, Edmonton Metro NBA University of Alberta

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw, Regina Harvest Saskatoon North Battleford Notre Dame

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