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Grade 11 post poses big challenge for other teams

Towering 6-8 Trojans player will be one to watch at provincials

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Vincent Massey’s Kyler Filewich is averaging 32 points and 18 rebounds per game.</p>


Vincent Massey’s Kyler Filewich is averaging 32 points and 18 rebounds per game.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/3/2018 (958 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One thing seems certain: any team planning to win the varsity boys title at the Milk AAAA Provincial High School Basketball Championships will have to find a way to solve Kyler Filewich.

The 6-8, 240-pound post for the No. 2-ranked Vincent Massey Trojans is a force of nature and the most talked-about high school hoops player in Manitoba. And he’s still getting better.

"He’s improved a great deal this year," said St. Paul’s head coach Jeff Laping, whose No. 1-ranked Crusaders have faced Filewich and the Trojans three times this season, winning twice. "He was just sort of a bull last year, to be honest. He was just so physical. This year, his touch is much improved, his finishing around the basket. He rebounds so well that you’ve just gotta find ways to limit what he can do."

Most opponents have trouble limiting Filewich, who is averaging 32 points and 18 rebounds per game even though Massey head coach Nick Lother usually sits his Grade 11 star on the bench for the fourth quarter.

"His game is definitely growing," Lother said. "He’s getting into better shape. His decision-making is getting a little bit more advanced. He still as a lot of room to grow, and that’s the scary thing."

The Crusaders and Trojans have spent this season swapping the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the rankings, but they have some difficult rivals to beat if they want to meet in Monday’s final.

St. Paul’s faces No. 4 Sisler in one of Friday’s semifinals at Investors Group Athletic Centre. The Spartans handed them one of their six losses this season.

Massey, meanwhile, must contest with the No. 3 Garden City Fighting Gophers, who have a rich winning tradition. Longtime head coach Phil Penner has guided the Gophers to four AAAA provincial titles and two second-place finishes in the past 10 years.

But a St. Paul’s-Vincent Massey headliner on Monday would be a fascinating duel, and Laping will be pulling out all the stops after losing the provincial finals in two of the past three seasons. Plotting an effective defensive strategy for Filewich is a priority.

"We try to do some different things, but yes, we’re gonna try to double him, we’ll try to front him, we’ll try to do just as many different things (as we can) to him," Laping said. "Just to make it so he’s not expecting the same thing all the time."

The Trojans were humbled by the Crusaders in the recent conference final, losing by 17, and Lother admits every opponent will be plotting to stop Filewich. The Crusaders present their own matchup problems, armed with the talents of guards Mark Tachie and Ben Gardner and forward Noah Dornn, an efficient long-range bomber.

"We see everything," Lother said. "He (Filewich) is such a dominant presence that if you don’t do those things, the result is not going to be good for your team. It’s not to say he doesn’t get frustrated in moments. We’re still managing that."

Tachie, the Crusaders’ playmaker, is Filewich’s teammate on the provincial team and has an idea about how good Massey’s big man can be.

"He’s grown a lot as a player," Tachie said, admitting he might be called on to help with a double-team. "He got better conditioned, better post moves, his compete level is higher, so it’s frustrating to go up against him."

Filewich, for his part, doesn’t seem too worried about what an opponent may throw at him.

"(Other teams) play zones that really pack the paint a lot, so that’s been difficult, but we’ve done pretty well to match up," Filewich said. "We’ve had some games where we didn’t play our best and it’s cost us.

"We have to come out, be mentally strong and not let the crowd get to us. No trash talk or anything. Just play our hardest. When we play hard and play our best we’re a tough team to beat."

Filewich, also a star on the gridiron, missed much of the Massey football season with a fractured fibula. He has worked diligently to improve his fitness and his play away from the basket. He also refined his shooting, adding a 15- to 17-foot jumper to his repertoire.

"He’s improved his ability to catch the ball at about 20 to 25 feet (away from the basket) and rip and go start to finish at the rim," Lother said. "It’s much more difficult to double-team a guy at the three-point line than it is in the block.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14


Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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