This one was one to grow on.
The Foothills Falcons turned in their strongest tournament of the year in giving the host Western Canada Redhawks – the no. 1 4A team in the province – a scare in the final Feb. 8 in Calgary.
“Incredibly tenacious, they don’t stop coming,” Redhawks coach Steven Wiebe said of the Falcons after the victory. “They play so hard, you had to try and match their intensity, which is easier said than done. Then they have guys that can light it up from outside…”
The Redhawks outlasted the Falcons 92-64 in the final, a score which was not indicative as to how close it truly was. Foothills was down 52-50 going into the final quarter.
“Foothills got a little tired, but to be honest, I thought we started swinging the ball around a little better,” Wiebe said. “They clogged the lane really well, and we had a hard time using our height.
“(In the fourth quarter) we started hitting open guys on the outside. I thought our decision making wasn’t good earlier, but it was very good in the fourth quarter.”
The Falcons weren’t intimidated going into a raucous sold-out sea of red gymnasium – and had to watch about a 10-minute highlight film of the taller Redhawks.
“I think it kind of powered us, even though it was a little bit scary,” said Grade 11 Falcon Hunter Romeril who had 10 points in the final. “I knew that if we worked hard, we had a chance to beat them. We just let them slide out in the fourth quarter.”
The smaller Falcons were like gnats – a constant bother to the Redhawks that wouldn’t go away.
After being tied at 15-15, the Redhawks went on a nine-point run to make it 24-15, but Foothills battled back to close the gap to 24-19 after the first quarter.
Foothills would take the lead at 27-26 early in the second quarter on back-to-back threes by Preston Layton and Cley Perrett, who finished with 15 points.
The Redhawks went on a 10-point run in the second quarter and had a 41-34 lead at the half.
Foothills would tie the game at 47-47 in the third on a three by Jamison Strilchuk. That was followed by a layup by Cam Boriskewich to give the Falcons a two-point bulge.
However, they couldn’t keep it up in the fourth quarter as Western won its home tournament for the first time in seven years.
“I think if we come up against them again, it will be another really close game,” said Boriskewich, who led the team in scoring with 20 points in the final. “In the fourth, when we got down by a bit, we tried to full-court press them, but when they are the no. 1 team in the province, they found a way pretty quick to get some open looks.”
Falcons coach Amron Gwilliam agreed.
“We had some open shots and we missed those and you can’t go through droughts when you are playing the top team in the province,” he said. “Maybe our legs got a little bit tired, but our tenacious defence kept us right there.”
Foothills went into the tournament with an honourable mention in the 4A rankings but showed early that this weekend might be something special. They knocked off the No. 7 ranked Father Lacombe Lasers 83-82 in both teams’ tourney opener on Thursday.
It came down to Boriskewich having to make a pair of free throws with less than a second left.
The sharp-shooting Falcon was fouled while trying to put up a three with Foothills down by one.
“They guy fouled me with .4 seconds left, and I went to the line and hit two to put us up by one,” said Boriskewich, who finished with 18 points. “To be honest, that was one of our best games of the season.”
Gwilliam said it was the biggest win of the year for Foothills – despite the fact they gave up a 10-point lead at one time.
“We made some good decisions near the end, made some big shots and we were able to pull of the victory,” Gwilliam said.
Perrett contributed 16 points, which included four three-point bombs. Ethan Doering had 18 points.
The Falcons advanced to the finals by downing the St. Mary’s Saints 92-60.
Wiebe admitted at the start of the tournament, he didn’t expect Foothills in the final.
Then he saw the big win over Father Lacombe.
“After I saw them play Father Lacombe, I wasn’t surprised to see them in the final,” Wiebe said. “They don’t stop coming.”
The Falcons will host a round-robin tournament next weekend.