As all the victories of a perfect season fade into the rearview mirror, the girls of Sisler Spartans basketball are bracing to battle for the only win that's left.
This could be their toughest test yet. On Monday night, the Spartans will face the Vincent Massey Trojans for Manitoba's top high school hoops title.
That's right, there will be a new AAAA girls high school basketball champion in town. The Trojans punched their ticket to the final at the University of Manitoba on Thursday night when they soared 60-50 past the defending champion Oak Park Raiders in one semifinal game.
"We knew it would be a battle," said Vincent Massey coach Stacey Hawash as her team celebrated the win. "We knew that they would never give up the whole game, so we had to come out strong defensively against them... and the girls played well and they did their job."
After a close first period, the Trojans sprang out over the Raiders in the second frame, carrying a 30-19 lead into the half.
'I think we're in trouble for Monday. But hopefully we got the bad game out of the way. We have a lot of things to fix for the weekend'
They clung to that lead even as the Raiders clawed their way back into the game. By the final minutes of the fourth period, Oak Park had closed the gap to just six points thanks to a bold performance from Raiders star guard Jordan Tully, who potted 33 points in the game.
But the Trojans kept their opponents at bay with contributions from across their roster.
Guard Atoosa Jalayeri delivered 10 points, eight rebounds and added seven steals, forward Kendra Klick-McMahon potted 14 points and gobbled up nine rebounds, and forward Keylyn Filewich grabbed 14 rebounds and put 11 points on the board.
Now, they will reload to face Sisler on Monday.
"I'm hoping we can come out to give them a game," Hawash said.
This marks the first time since 2009 that the Raiders have not played in the girls' AAAA provincial final.
In the earlier semifinal at Investors Group Athletic Centre, Sisler beat Linden Christian 70-61. The Spartans held off a spirited late-game surge from the fifth-seeded Wings to take the win. The top-seeded Spartans are 32-0 heading into the final.
Still, after Thursday's semifinal, coach Michael Tan was far from pleased.
"We didn't stick to our game plan," he said, pointing to how Sisler struggled to contain the Wings' 6-1 star, Montana Kinzel, who blazed for 27 points and 13 rebounds.
"I think we're in trouble for Monday. But hopefully we got the bad game out of the way. We have a lot of things to fix for the weekend."
Adding to Tan's woes, the Spartans must go into Monday's final without one of their most explosive young stars.
This weekend, Sisler guard Kyanna Giles will pack her bags for Edmonton where she will compete for a spot on the national under-17 team.
That loss is a big blow to the Spartans roster.
Although only in Grade 10, Giles is a dynamo. On Thursday, she scored 30 points and snatched up eight rebounds and three steals, while leading her team with over 31 minutes on the court.
True, the Spartans have played without the firecracker freshman before, and won. Still, her absence will be bittersweet.
"I'm confident in my team that they can practise hard and get the win," said Giles, whose twin sister, Kyia, also plays on the team. "At the same time, I'm sad. But hopefully I'm moving on to bigger things."
Meanwhile, the Final Four boys basketball teams will face off tonight in the AAAA provincial high school semifinals. First up at 6 p.m., the Sisler Spartans will face the St. Paul's Crusaders, while the Glenlawn Lions will battle the Mennonite Brethren Hawks at 8 p.m. There will be a new boys' high school basketball champion this year after Sisler knocked out the two-time defending champion Garden City Fighting Gophers in the quarter-finals last weekend.
The girls' final is set for 6 p.m. on Monday at Investors Group Athletic Centre, with the boys' final to follow at 8 p.m.