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Falcons boys earn sweet finish at Sugar Bowl

Basketball: Foothills clips Cochrane in fifth place final at Raymond tournament
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A sweet victory punctuated the Falcons annual trek south to the Sugar Bowl. 

The Foothills Falcons senior boys earned a fifth-place finish at the Raymond Comets’ marquee Sugar Bowl basketball tournament, Dec. 27-28, capped off by a 73-70 triumph over the Cochrane Cobras. 

“It’s been a bit of a tough slog with our group this year, tons of inexperience, so just getting a win at a top tournament like that is big for us,” said Falcons head coach Amron Gwilliam. “Getting to play against that upper echelon of competition and to have a couple good games and start to play better as a team and to get that victory against Cochrane, a really solid team this year, that’s good for our guys to build that confidence.” 

In the seesaw thriller, the Falcons had a 34-26 lead at the half only to have the Cobras cut the deficit to one going into the final quarter. 

Ben Stephan paced the offence with 24 points, shooting 60 per cent from the field, along with eight rebounds and four assists. Owen Christensen had 19 points with Jack Oliver adding 15 from the floor. 

“I liked the way our kids played for the most part, we had a nice couple runs on the offensive end,” the coach added. “I thought our defence was fairly solid, we had a couple lapses where we let them get back into the game, but I thought for the most part we controlled the game mostly from start to finish.” 

The fifth-place match ended in somewhat chaotic fashion with a foul called on the Falcons with 0.5 seconds left and the Cobras down three.  

A lane violation on the Falcons added a free-throw opportunity for Cochrane who were then able to get the ball back on a technical foul on an inbound play.  

In the end, Foothills held on to its three-point advantage and handled the adversity well. 

“The nice thing is I thought our guys played fairly poised through it,” Gwilliam said. “Their guys were upset and excited and jumping up and down and screaming, but most of our guys I thought handled it well.  

“We obviously made way more mistakes than we should have made and hopefully we learn from that, but I did like the fact our guys didn’t really panic even though it seemed a lot of things went against us.” 

In pool play, the Falcons took a couple losses to the Medicine Hat Hawks and Cardston Cougars on Dec. 27. 

Cardston, one of the top teams in the province in the early going, held off Foothills by a 87-67 count after getting out to a commanding lead at the half. 

Stephan again led the attack with 14 points, Koby Bergen had 13 with Beynon Gwilliam adding 10 points while going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. 

“We played fairly well despite the fact we ended up losing by more than we hoped,” the coach said. “It was a really good test for us against one of those Top 5 teams in the province and seeing where we’re at and seeing where we can improve.” 

The tournament icebreaker saw the Hawks dispatch the Falcons by a score of 83-58 with Christensen scoring a team-best 11 points. 

“I wasn’t super happy with how we played, way too many turnovers, way too many mistakes,” Gwilliam said. “We had a few days off with the Christmas break and everything and, to me, we looked rusty and didn’t look mentally focused as much as we should be. 

“I thought we should have played more with Medicine Hat in terms of the scoreboard, but it wasn’t our best game. Our other two games were significantly better.” 

Cardston went on to win the tournament, the LCI Rams took second place and Medicine Hat earned the bronze with a victory over Raymond in the bronze medal match. 

The tournament was the 54th annual Sugar Bowl, a hallmark of high school basketball in southern Alberta and a terrific experience for the players even with the crowds restricted to 50 per cent capacity. 

“Most years when we go down there’s anywhere from 800 to 1,200 people in the stands,” Gwilliam said. “Especially when you’re playing another team from the south, it’s loud and crazy and one of the best environments in all of Alberta in terms of high school basketball. 

“For guys that are there for the first time it’s eye opening, and more than anything just exposing them to that is a huge deal, especially for a lot of our younger guys this year getting to be there and getting to witness it and what that next level is like at the 4A level.” 


Remy Greer

About the Author: Remy Greer

Remy Greer is the assistant editor and sports reporter for Okotokstoday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact rgreer@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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