The team is new for this season, but there’s already some magic in the air.
The Manitoba Magic 12-and-under girls basketball team was put together this fall, and is already proving to be a team to be reckoned with.
The Magic, made up of Grade 7 students primarily from Linden Woods, St. Norbert, St. Vital and St. Boniface, became the inaugural winners of the Johnson Waste Management Invitational Basketball Tournament hosted by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg on Oct. 14.
The Magic defeated the Fury 27-6 in the final, to earn a team trip to Boston Pizza.
"The tournament went really well," said Linden Woods resident Niyah Becker, who was celebrating her 12th birthday on the day of the final. "Everyone did a good job. We had great teamwork."
Head coach Neil Blanca said he’s seen the players improve drastically thus far in their first year of competitive basketball.
"Some of them have played at the community centre level before," he said, "but this is their first time moving into the club basketball scene. It’s more competitive and more intense.
"They’ve improved 100% in every game so far."
Becker, who says point guard is her favourite position (the players rotate through all the roles), said the competitive aspect of the games this year has added to the fun.
"At the beginning of the year we didn’t really know how to do most of the drills," she said. "But coach Neil has taught us really well."
The Magic are gearing up for the start of the Winnipeg Minor Basketball Association’s Rising Stars League season, and have a trip planned for next month to a tournament in Grand Forks.
The tournament, a first-year event held at St. Paul’s High School, was first conceived three years ago. Eric Johnson, the president of Johnson Waste Management, approached Ron Brown, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg, about sponsoring a basketball tournament.
"It took a while, but here we are," Brown said. "It’s not exactly what we do. We do youth programming. But with the help of enough staff and volunteers this first-time event has been great."
Basketball Manitoba helped the organizers find teams that fit the tournament’s goals of reaching out to young people who might benefit from the clubs’ programming.
In addition to four 12-and-under girls’ teams, there was a competition featuring six 14-and-under boys’ squads.
"We hope to have more teams next year," Brown said, noting that by then St. Paul’s will have completed construction on two new courts. "It’s a great way to build awareness of who we are."