A Crestview high school is now home to this year’s AAAA basketball champions.
The John Taylor Collegiate junior varsity Pipers team became Manitoba High School Athletic Association’s provincial champions after beating the Garden City Gophers by a score of 65-61 on March 15.
For the Pipers, losing to the Gophers was not an option. James Wagner, a 15-year-old Westwood resident, said he and his teammates lost two games to the Gophers earlier in the season.
"We just wanted to beat those guys," Wagner said with a laugh.
The Pipers were ranked No. 2 going into provincials, while Garden City Collegiate occupied the No. 1 spot.
"We had lost 20 points last time we played them," Wagner recalled.
During the game, Wagner said the Pipers started out in the lead, but the Gophers caught up. The score was close at half-time.
"That was a close game. They have some really good players," Wagner said. "They ended up missing their shot at the end, and we ended up holding on to win 65-61."
Ricki Zimbakov was named the tournament all-star, and Wagner was the provincial MVP.
"James has certain qualities that make him unique. He is eager to learn and grow and not only does he want to hear constructive criticism, he actively seeks it out," said Jon Giesbrecht, the Pipers junior varsity coach. "He leads by example by doing extra work, by consistently stepping up when needed, and being a good teammate."
This season, the Pipers won 28 games and lost two in the regular season. Including playoffs, the team won 34 games.
Wagner averaged about 23.4 points per game, 10.6 rebounds per game, two blocks per game, and 4.2 assists per game.
Wagner doesn’t have a defined position on the team, but he said he usually plays forward or post. A flexible athlete, Wagner said he is up for being whatever the team needs.
"Our 2013-2014 season was one of the most successful seasons in school history. I could not be more proud of our team," Giesbrecht said.
Wagner said the team played so well because they have been playing together for a long time. Wagner said Giesbrecht was his basketball coach when he was in Grade 5.
Although the basketball season is over, Wagner said he can’t afford to take that long of a break. After enjoying a short rest period, Wagner plans to get back to the gym and prepare for provincial team tryouts coming up at the end of May.