The last few weeks were busy ones for the Prairie Pilots but they were worth it as the teams brought home silver and bronze medals as well as their first ever PAC Championship and the school’s first ACAL Championship in over 10 years.
In late February, both of the Pilots futsal and basketball teams were finishing off their seasons. All four teams (men’s and women’s) looked forward to competing at the final tournament on their home court.
First up was the futsal Championships which Prairie hosted March 22-23rd. The women’s team entered the weekend ranked third in the league and would face second-place Ambrose Lions in their semi-final game. The lady Pilots had lost in their previous three meetings against Ambrose but were hopeful of a positive result. The Pilots put their best foot forward and played evenly with the Lions for good portions of the game, the Lions, however, were able to take full advantage of their opportunities and advance to the final with a 3-0 win. The Lions would go on to win the ACAL Championships the next day against the Olds Broncos. The loss put the Pilots in the bronze medal game against the Millar Edge. As was typical of the weekend it was a hard fought close game. The Pilots were able to grab an early marker through Melissa Toews and held off the Edge’s attack for the rest of the way, emerging with the 1-0 victory to claim the bronze.
The men came into the weekend ranked second and would play the third place Millar Edge in their semi-final match up. The two teams split their regular season games and were in for a battle right down to the end. Millar took the early lead but the Pilots were able to equalize and go into the lead courtesy of a pair of goals from Calvin Buist, only for the Edge to draw level again. Nearing the later stages of the second half, Buist was able to complete the hat trick, firing home a rebound from a free kick putting the Pilots ahead for good. Millar rallied in the final stages to find the equalizer, but were shut down by Kevin Huisman in the Pilots net. This set up a clash between the Pilots and the unbeaten Ambrose Lions for the men’s Championship. The Pilots, spurred on by the home crowd, came out looking for the win and the school’s first ever futsal championship, but were soon silenced by an early goal from the Lions. The Pilots rebounded in the second half with some solid play, but were unable to find the back of the Lions net, conceding a 3-0 loss to the Calgary side. “We are a little disappointed by the loss,” said Head Coach James Fraser, “but Ambrose played well as they had all season and deserved the win. A goal early in the second might have made a difference for us, but tonight, it just wasn’t to be. We played hard and I think we can be proud of our effort.”
The Pilots futsal teams finished off the year with a trip to Bethany Bible College in Saskatchewan to participate in the PAC (Prairie Athletic Conference) Indoor Soccer Championships. Both teams competed in round robin play with the top two teams meeting again in the final. The men got off to a slow start and lost their first two games. They found their scoring touch just a little too late, winning their final game by a score of 8-0. The women fared better in their round robin play. They lost their first game to Millar by a slight margin, but quickly adjusted to the different style of play, winning their next two games and setting up a rematch against the Millar Edge for the Championship. The final was the fifth meeting between the two teams and started out in a similar fashion to the previous games with little given by either team. However, the Pilots soon found their touch and opened the floodgates, scoring five and dominating the final stages of play. The final score was 5-1 for the Pilots. Melissa Toews, who was named tournament MVP, led the way with two goals. Kelly Stephenson, Trudy Reimer and Ashton Neufeld each added one. This marked the first time the PAC Championship was ever won by a team outside of Saskatchewan.
The year ended off with another busy weekend at the Rick Down Athletic Centre on March 8-9, 2013 when Prairie hosted the ACAL Basketball Championships. The men came into the weekend in the fourth and final playoff spot and were fighting an uphill battle right away against the undefeated CUC Aurora. True to season form, CUC proved too much for the Pilots and marched on to the final after a 95-53 win. CUC would also later win a come-from-behind thriller, 85-66, in the final against the Olds Broncos.
Sam Hankins lead the Pilots with 12 points. The loss put the Pilots in the bronze medal game on Saturday against the Ambrose Lions. The Pilots stormed out to a 20-12 lead after the first quarter, led by Marcus Hirch and Sheldon Leschert, who each had a team-high 15 points. The Pilots held onto the lead and led 33-25 at halftime, but things soon turned sour for the Pilots. The Lions outside shooting picked up in the third quarter allowing them to go on a run while the Pilots offence sputtered. The Lions were up 56-43 after the third. The gap proved too much for the Pilots to make up, and despite pulling close in the final minutes, the home team couldn’t stop the Lions offence, eventually losing 70-60.
The women were ranked second after regular season play and faced Ambrose for the right to play in Saturday’s final against Olds, who had already advanced after beating Millar in their semi-final match up. Buoyed by the home-crowd support, the Pilots flew out to an early lead. Quick baskets from Madison Fehr and Lisa Dyck gave the Pilots a 27-6 lead part way through the second quarter. The Lions were not to be counted out. As the Pilots offence lagged in the third quarter, the visitors made up ground to trail only by a single point going into the fourth. The Pilots dug deeper and found a way to hold off the Lions by building up a lead that would withstand yet another late push. The Pilots pulled out the 59-51 victory and punched their ticket for Saturday’s final. Lisa Dyck led all scorers with 18 points.
A packed house turned out to see the Pilots go for gold against the Olds College Broncos Saturday night. The Broncos got the better of the Pilots during the regular season but the Pilots were hoping to change that trend in their final match-up. The game started out in a tight defensive battle with neither team giving ground. The Broncos led 13-12 after the first, while the Pilots grabbed the lead, 24-23, going into the half-time break. The Pilots bench had already been significantly shortened in the weeks leading up to the championships with two key players, Kaityln Jahnke and Kelsy Emerson, both being unable to play due to injuries.
Early in the first half, the Pilots were dealt another blow when Leslie Fehr went down and was unable to continue, leaving the Pilots with only six players for the rest of the game. Despite this, the depleted squad began to break away in the second half, lead by captains Beth Richardson and Madison Fehr who had 16 and 17 points respectively. The Pilots led 39-30 going into the fourth and final quarter, sitting just 10 minutes away from victory. The Broncos fought back, narrowing the game to as close as 3 points in the final stages, but could not stop the Pilots offence who pulled away again for the last time to cruise to a 54-47 win, winning the 2013 ACAL Championships! “I’m very proud of the way they played today,” said head coach Pamela Fraser, “despite only having six players most of the way, we played great and I think that just proves our depth of character, mental strength and conditioning. Our leaders really stepped up as well and were our best players tonight and that’s what we needed. We’ve had a great year and I just couldn’t be happier with this result.”
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Congratulations to all of our players and supporters. See you next year.
This was the first ever league championships for a Pilots basketball team and Prairie’s first league Championship since 1998!