Tournament play is all about rebounding from a win or loss.
And in the case of the Holy Trinity Academy Knights senior boys, rebounding proficiently keyed a bronze medal finish at the Bert Church Chargers tournament in Airdrie as post Xavier Krueger had a 20 points, 23 rebounds showing in the 84-56 triumph over Strathcona Christian Academy on Dec. 18.
“We had an OK weekend, we looked a little tired just generally,” said Knights head coach Sam Aiello. “We’re still talented enough that we were able to pull out a couple wins there.
“We still played OK, but we’re definitely looking to get to the finish line for our break and recharge the batteries here.”
Underscoring their dominance in the paint, the Knights had four players hit double digits in rebounds with Sam Friesen grabbing 14 and Eric Bjorge and Marcus Abrenica bringing down 10 boards to go along with Krueger’s lofty totals under the basket.
“They weren’t the biggest team, but they did have some really good shooters that we weren’t really ready for in the first,” said Krueger, a Grade 10 student. “We started using our size a bit more, feeding it down low to use our post play, use our size to get rebounds under the basket.
“When our shooting is not on, we’ve got to really rely on our size, get those rebounds and put them back up for easy points. We’ve just got to remember to be physical and not be timid to get in there.”
In the semifinal, HTA was foiled 79-75 at the hands of league foes Strathmore as the Spartans held the Knights to just six points in the second-quarter.
Josh Barlow had a team-best 23 points, Krueger had 14 along with 16 rebounds and Abrenica chipped in with 18 points and six assists.
“They came out really strong against us and it looked like we couldn’t find an answer for some of their one-on-one guys,” Krueger added. “They ran us a bit, were really physical and that was a really good game and they just edged us out.”
It was the second meeting in five days between the squads as HTA got the upper hand following an 82-64 triumph in Foothills Athletic Council action on Dec. 13.
“That second quarter we just missed some shots, just a little uncharacteristic from us,” Aiello said. “Credit to Strathmore, they played well and were super excited after the win because I think when we went there on Monday night to their gym I think they were expecting that they should win that game and then we came out with a really good effort.
“It is always tough to see the same team twice in one week, especially when we’re fairly close in terms of talent. I think either of those games could have gone either way.”
The Knights soundly defeated the Croxford Cavaliers 75-47 in the tournament tipoff, on the strength of a 45-point first half. Barlow led the way with 20 points, Krueger added 13 points and 13 rebounds with Friesen adding 10 boards.
“I know the score is not indicative of maybe that we didn’t play that way, but we did make some uncharacteristic mistakes,” Aiello said. “I was a little concerned about that and we had a little chat after the game about guys being tired and stuff and it just extended into the whole weekend.
“I just think for a lot of these kids, it’s their first time playing at the senior level and playing competitive basketball in a couple of years and it’s a grind.”
HTA, coming off an 11 games in 15 days stretch, now gets a bit of a break in competition with only practices left to take place in the calendar year.
“Coming from almost two years off from playing basketball it’s definitely hard to adjust to it, the constant running,” Krueger added. “We’re trying to get back into it, playing more basketball outside of practice, just to get back into basketball shape because it definitely takes a toll on having that many games in that short amount of time.”
HTA is next in tournament action on the second weekend of January on its home court as the 25th annual Knights Classic runs from Jan. 7-8 at the Okotoks school.
“That’s an exciting tournament for me,” Krueger said. “Especially because the school was built the year I was born and both of my parents are teachers there so I’ve really been watching games ever since I was born. This is really kind of surreal for me being at our home tournament, that’s something I’ve imagined since I was just a little kid.”
The competition will also feature the Foothills Falcons as well as Bert Church, Croxford, Chestermere as well as Calgary’s All Saints, St. Francis and Western Canada.