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This article was published 7/3/2017 (1946 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Reiver Nation took the Kildonan Peguis Athletic Conference by storm this season.
On March 3, Kildonan East Collegiate’s girls and boys varsity basketball squads both defeated their rivals from Garden City to claim respective KPAC championships.
It took the Reivers girls varsity team a little while to get on the same page but once they did, they finished 7-1 in KPAC league play.
"We had a slow start for sure, said Moira Kennedy, a Grade 12 shooting guard and co-captain of the team. "But we had lots of chemistry, so we fought through the tough times and came out strong."
"The positivity and dedication from coaches really helped us stay strong, to do nothing but get better all season," added Aimee Garland, the Reivers’ Grade 12 point guard, co-captain and team points leader. "This was the best season I’ve had in my high school career."
"We like to think our defense creates offense," coach Curt Bauer said. "We defend really well, and turn teams over. We do have lots of balance, some good inside players, good shooters. We can hurt teams different ways."
Despite solid play, the Reivers girls team still had a historic hurdle to overcome.
Coming into the final, Kildonan East’s girls hadn’t won a divisional basketball championship since 1988. Bauer said that while history was weighing on his squad heading into the game against Garden City, the girls rose to the challenge.
"It was a tight game for the whole first half," Bauer said. "Midway through the third we went on a bit of a run."
"Garden City is a smaller team, so we used our height to our advantage," said Kennedy, who stands 5-9.
"Everybody played a big role," Garland said. "Even on the bench, and the crowd was crazy. It really proved what we are capable of."
While the win was a team effort, Bauer acknowledged the hard work of Page Morris, who had 29 points, and "guarded the other team’s best player" all game and Garland, who scored 17 points on the way securing the KPAC championship.
Bauer added that one of the keys to the Reivers’ 69-43 victory was subbing in a couple of his Grade 10 players, Kyana Wonnacott and Gurleen Dhillon.
"When I brought them in they made a huge impact," Bauer said. "They’ve really learned their roles and spot, and were huge contributors for us."
Looking towards the Manitoba High School Athletic Association provincial championships, Bauer said he is cautiously optimistic.
In the first round, the Reivers will meet Garden City again at 4 p.m. on March 10 at Oak Park High School (820 Charleswood Rd.). The winner will go on to play the top-ranked Vincent Massey squad on March 11.
"Provincials is going to be challenging," Bauer said. "Our goal is to try to make a splash there, maybe put a scare into Vincent Massey."
"We’re ranked eighth, so we kind of feel we’re the underdogs," Kennedy said.
"We need to keep the same mentality, stay humble, and pursue what we do best," Garland added. "Pushing the ball being aggressive and playing as a team."
Reivers varsity boys
The Reivers boys varsity squad last took the KPAC championship two years ago.
However, the team’s 89-67 victory over Garden City on March 3 was no less sweet.
"It was a huge upset," coach Lloyd Celones said. "They’re one of the powerhouse schools in the province. We’ve always struggled against them over the last five to 10 years."
"It was a good, hard-fought game," said team captain Shemar Omar, a 6-foot, 175-pound Grade 12 point guard. "Garden City is a good team. You give them any room they can make a run with their shooting and attacking."
The Reivers came out strong against Garden City, establishing an early lead. By the final quarter, though, Celones said Garden City were "throwing everything they could at us." But the Reivers buckled down and held on for the win.
"We had a perfect game plan, we knew their tendencies, which we took away, and the boys executed it to perfection," Celones said. "Every time Garden City made their run to come back into game, I had different players rise to the occasion and kill their momentum. Everyone contributed. It was a whole team effort."
For the Reivers boys, this season has been a bit of a rollercoaster.
"Lot of highs and lows, but through it all we stuck together," confirmed Omar. "When we would get down we would never give up."
"We’ve been playing hard," Celones said. "We eventually got into Top 10 rankings two or three weeks ago and we’ve been able to maintain that."
"I think that was motivation for us, being unranked for a while and fighting our way back into the Top 10," Omar added.
Celones said his team are "a very athletic, fast, very hard working group of kids."
"They’re very exciting to watch. Really good shooters. They love to run."
"We’re versatile," said KEC’s Seth McKenzie, a 6-foot, 175-pound Grade 12 guard. "We don’t have a dominant big man. Being a small team, we faced a lot of big guys. But we’ve been able to defend them well."
For the boys to be successful in the upcoming provincials, Celones knows the ninth-seeded Reivers will have to keep playing hard.
"We’re not the biggest group," he said. "But I believe we’re a group that never quits. The biggest thing is for them to believe in each other, to work together as a team."
"We gotta bring the intensity from the start no matter who we’re playing," McKenzie said. "Our offence is there, but we need to stop them. Good defence is key."
"I think we gotta play with confidence," Omar added. "When we come out flat, we struggle. I But we’re a deadly team when we come out with energy. I think we can beat anyone."
The Reivers take on eighth-seeded John Taylor at 4 p.m. on March 10 at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate (2665 Ness Ave.) In the first round of the provincials. The winners will play the top-seeded Oak Park Raiders on March 11 to qualify for the final four.
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112