Bisons best bet heading into Metro playoffs

The Ardrossan Bisons senior boys basketball team finished the regular season in first place in Division 3 with a record of 9-1. Photo Supplied

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Of all the local high school basketball teams, the Ardrossan Bisons senior boys squads appears to have the best chance at a Metro moment.

Heading into the Metro Edmonton High School League playoffs next week, the Bisons are sitting atop the table in the Division 3 standings with a record of 9-1, although to be fair, the Archbishop Jordan Scots are also very much in the running, handing the Bisons their only league loss to sit in a three-way tie for second place at 8-2.

The Bisons do have a recent tournament win to draw from as they head into post-season play, having won their own Bison Thunder Classic with a 95-45 win over Barrhead, a 95-61 victory over St. Paul and a narrow 68-66 win over J. Percy Page in the gold medal match.

“We had lost to them earlier in the season in the finals of the Salisbury tournament, so it was great to be able to beat them at home,” said Ardrossan senior boys head coach Kelly Ferguson. “The boys played extremely well this tournament. I was unsure how they would perform after having such a long layoff from exam break, but they were excited to play in front of our home fans. They gym was packed for each game, it was a fun atmosphere. The final against J. Percy Page was a great game, back and forth between the two teams. I had to catch myself a few times as I got caught up watching the game, both teams have a lot of skill so it was very entertaining. In the end we were able to pull out the win, I was happy for the whole team, but especially the Grade 12s. They’ve put in a ton of work over the years and they deserved to win their last home tournament.”

The Bisons are also going into the playoffs on a victory, defeating Mother Margaret Mary 92-44 to close out regular season action on Wednesday and lock down first place.

“Unfortunately after exam break we ran into some issues with practices due to the cold weather, our buses were cancelled for an entire week so we weren’t able to get any practices in,” Ferguson said of worries they would lose their momentum coming back from the break. “We were able to win against Louis St. Laurent and McNally, but both of those teams were lower in the standings. Our first game back from that week off was against ABJ, who were also at the top of the standings with us. We were very rusty offensively, but to be fair I think ABJ was also, so it wasn’t a true showing of what each team was capable of. We ended up losing that game 57-55, we had a chance to win at the end but couldn’t get a basket to fall. That’s okay though, in the end it’s good for us to face some adversity heading into playoffs, and to stay hungry knowing that there are teams looking at us in the standings and want to beat us. It was a good lesson, and we’ve been practicing hard over the last week here to get back to where we were before the break.”

The Herd’s play this season hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Recently we’ve been ranked by ASAA in the top 15 3A schools in the province,” Ferguson said. “It’s great for the boys to receive some provincial recognition, but will go a long way in our zone tournament to earn a berth for provincials. We have a very tough zone. There are three other teams from our zone ranked in that top 15, and with only two, maybe three berths from our zone it will be a really tough road for us to make it into provincials. I’m optimistic though, this group has shown throughout the season that they are a determined group. Hopefully we’ll be able to peak at the right time.”

Ferguson said it has been all hands on deck when it comes to individual players stepping up when needed.

“It seems like every game we have a different player ready to put the team on their back,” he said. “My leadership group of Tye Wardman, Tom Simon, Cyrus McMillan, Aidan McTavish, Evan Benoit, and Laine Santos have been great in keeping everyone motivated, Each of them bring a different set of skills to the table, but they’ve been playing together for a long time and complement each other well. Tye Wardman leads us on both ends of the floor, he’s been putting up huge offensive numbers all season, his combination of size and skill is fun to watch. Blake Gustafson has also been tremendous for us this year, he’s a Grade 11 student who plays on the Sherwood Park Midget Major AAA Kings hockey team, and the fact he’s been so committed to each team show’s what kind of person he is. There’s not a lot of people that would be able to handle that workload and excel, and the fact that he’s an honours student is incredible. He’s a great athlete and his work ethic is unmatched, defensively I can put him on anybody and he’ll shut them down.”

Elsewhere in senior boys play, the Strathcona Christian Academy Eagles were the lone team to participate in Division 1, and although they finished second-last at 2-9, the regular season is used more as prep for provincial play for the small school.

In Division 2 action, Salisbury was 6-5, while Bev Facey was 3-8.

In senior girls play, the Sal Sabres were the top local team in the Division 1 ranks at 7-3, followed by ABJ at 3-7 and Facey at 2-8.

The SCA Eagles girls were 2-8 in Division 2, while Ardrossan was 7-4 in Division 3.