September 2, 2015


High School

Crusaders' first hoops win a 'new feeling'

Members of the Vincent Massey Trojans celebrate a 70-53 win over the Sisler Spartans in the high school AAAA provincial basketball championship game at the University of Manitoba's Investors Group Athletic Centre Monday, March 24, 2014.  (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Member of the St. Paul's Crusaders celebrate after defeating the Glenlawn Lions 85-71 to win the high school boys' AAAA provincial title at the University of Manitoba Monday. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Kyanna Giles (11) cries with teammates after the Sisler Spartans were defeated by the Vincent Massey Trojans in the championship game. It was the Spartans' only loss this season. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Dejected Glenlawn Lions player Sulaiman Jalloh is comforted after his team was defeated by the St. Paul's Crusaders in the provisional championship. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Supporters carry Vincent Massey Trojans player and tournament MVP Atoosa Jalayeri after the big win. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
St. Paul's Crusader fans celebrate the school's first provincial AAAA basketball title in the same year the private boys' school captured provincial hockey and football championships. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
The Vincent Massey Trojans celebrate their win. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
The St. Paul's Crusaders celebrate their victory. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Vincent Massey Trojans fans celebrate after their team's victory in the girls' title game. (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Members of the Vincent Massey Trojans celebrate a 70-53 win over the Sisler Spartans in the high school AAAA provincial basketball championship game at the University of Manitoba's Investors Group Athletic Centre Monday, March 24, 2014. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Member of the St. Paul's Crusaders celebrate after defeating the Glenlawn Lions 85-71 to win the high school boys' AAAA provincial title at the University of Manitoba Monday. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Kyanna Giles (11) cries with teammates after the Sisler Spartans were defeated by the Vincent Massey Trojans in the championship game. It was the Spartans' only loss this season. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Dejected Glenlawn Lions player Sulaiman Jalloh is comforted after his team was defeated by the St. Paul's Crusaders in the provisional championship. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Supporters carry Vincent Massey Trojans player and tournament MVP Atoosa Jalayeri after the big win. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
St. Paul's Crusader fans celebrate the school's first provincial AAAA basketball title in the same year the private boys' school captured provincial hockey and football championships. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
The Vincent Massey Trojans celebrate their win. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
The St. Paul's Crusaders celebrate their victory. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Vincent Massey Trojans fans celebrate after their team's victory in the girls' title game. - (JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

With every drop of sweat and ounce of will already spilled out on the court, the St. Paul's Crusaders basketball squad dug down deep and found a little more.

In the stunning final of the AAAA provincial championship game on Monday night, it was enough. Enough to claw the game back from the Glenlawn Lions. Enough to break free late in the game, when the Lions roar finally faded. Enough to win, 85-71. Enough to claim St. Paul's first Manitoba AAAA high school basketball banner, dating all the way back to 1969. They will add it to their football and hockey banners from this season, to make it a three-sport sweep.


The St. Paul's Crusaders have now added a basketball banner to their rafters.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The St. Paul's Crusaders have now added a basketball banner to their rafters. Photo Store

"We talked about it from the beginning of the year, with all the hockey and football players, that we wanted to win everything this year," said towering Crusaders forward Billy Yaworsky, who finished with a staggering 25 points and 16 rebounds and was named the tournament MVP. "It feels great... as our first provincial championship. It's never been done before, so it's a new feeling for us."

Early in the game, it almost looked like the win might come easy. The Crusaders stalked the Lions at the start, taking a 17-6 lead after the first quarter. But then, just when it seemed the first half would pound a stake into their championship dreams, the Glenlawn Lions came unleashed.

The Lions roared back in the second quarter, savaged their opponents and put up a gaudy 31 points to claw their way into a lead. Sophomore guard Keiran Zziwa, who put up just two points in the opening frame, caught fire in the second and finished the half with 15 points. In the dying seconds of the half, he darted into the Crusaders defence and popped the ball into the net for a 37-36 lead.

In the stands, cheers of glee exploded from the sea of Glenlawn red that filled one side of the stands, drums pounding so loud that eardrums trembled.

In the third quarter and the first minute of the fourth, the teams dug their heels into their trenches, racing down the court and trading punches. One team or another would scratch out a lead of one or two points, then lose it again. The Crusaders scored 18 points in the third quarter, the Lions close behind with 16.

Then the Crusaders finally broke free. Where it started: Yaworsky potted a deuce to take a 58-55 lead. Moments later, his three-point shot made a perfect swoosh to give his team some open water, leading 61-55. "I knew they were going to hang around, so someone had to step up, and take control of the game, and I felt it was my time to do it, and I had to step up," Yaworsky said. "That's when we started to taste it as a team, and I was really excited about it."

Shortly thereafter, his teammate, Alec Bernier, followed suit, putting up a pretty three-point bomb that kept the Crusaders ahead. That sequence seemed to turn the final tide in St. Paul's favour as the Lions started to scramble. Meanwhile, the Crusaders pounded back, stretching the lead as the final minutes of the game ticked down. The final buzzer was drowned out by the roar of St. Paul's fans.

For the Lions, it was a worthy battle to the end, led by Zziwa who finished with 24 points, four boards and four steals. "I'm really proud of my boys this season," Glenlawn coach Jonathan Wolfe said. "All the credit in the world to St. Paul's... very deserving champion. I thought the St. Paul's boys stayed composed and had a great fourth quarter and really separated from us."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2014 D4

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 10:37 PM CDT: Adds slideshow.

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