It was a season of upsets on the boys’ side of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association Milk Provincial "AAAA" Basketball Championships — if one goes by the rankings, at least.
But all told, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute Hawks head coach Jon Goossen said there wasn’t much to nitpick between the top 11 teams. The tournament was highlighted by the top-ranked Garden City Fighting Gophers, the two-time defending champions, falling to the No. 8 Sisler Spartans in the round of eight.
"In all my coaching career, I have never seen such a close Top 10," said Goossen, who just finished his 21st season as coach. "Anybody could beat anybody. We always knew that."
In the tournament, the No. 2 Hawks advanced to the Final Four by defeating the No. 7 Dakota Lancers 76-60, but fell victim to another St. Vital school with a 90-82 loss to the No. 3 Glenlawn Lions on March 21. The loss to Glenlawn swung wildly, with MBCI trailing by 21 before going on a 22-0 run to take the lead. Glenlawn recovered, managing to hold off the Hawks the rest of the way.
"That’s what I can say about the character of the guys we had this year," Goossen said. "They never panicked. Even when they were down by 21, they were anxious, but the guys still felt like they could do it."
Hawks guard Matt Dyck said though the Hawks only played "six good minutes of basketball," against the Lions, MBCI really dug in its heels and resolved to put up a fight.
"We said we’re not doing down like this," Dyck said.
Dyck, an East St. Paul resident, received the player’s choice award at the end of the tournament, and was proud to receive the honour.
"It was one that was voted on by our peers, so I had no idea at all," Dyck said. "They just respected the way I played, how I treated officials, and how I treated them."
While the Grade 12 student is done with playing competitively, he is looking to transition into coaching with Winnipeg Team Mayhem, his club team. He will also focus more on competitive golf.
Fellow Hawks guard Derek McKnight, a tournament all-star also from East St. Paul, hopes to play with a CIS team next season as he presses forward to obtain a business degree.
All told, the Hawks were 27-7 this season, including tournament wins at the Notre Dame Tournament in Calgary and the Maples Tournament here in Winnipeg.
Goossen said approximately half the team is eligible to return for another push in 2014-15.