For the third time in the last five seasons, the John Paul II Crusaders junior boys basketball team can call themselves Battle West district champions.
They wrapped up their season by defeating the North Battleford Comprehensive High School Vikings 49-20 in the district final this past Saturday on their home court.
"We've had some very passionate and skilled players come through our team and our system," Crusaders head coach Nate Jurgens said. "Winning your last game on the home floor in front of your fans, I think for them that kind of just gives you a little bit of closure on the season, but also motivates them to try to do it again next year."
Jurgens said depth was a huge key, not just on the weekend, but all season long.
"We've got a lot of guys that can go out there and contribute in many different ways," Jurgens said. "We're really lucky to have that. A lot of teams don't have that luxury of having a deep bench. We can literally put pretty much any guy on the floor and it goesn't really crush our flow at all."
Earlier in the season, the Crusaders went to a top tier tournament in Edmonton and came away with a bronze medal against some stiff competition.
Jurgens said that experience helped them at the end of the season.
"That tournament was a huge contributor for sure because I always try to tell the guys to play up," Jurgens said. "Never play to the level of the competition. I always tell them, 'You're competing against yourself to get better.'
"I do think for sure that did help us because it did allow us to play up and take our game to a different level."
For Vikings head coach Jeff Gibson, the difference in Saturday's final was crystal clear.
"JP was mentally in the game and we weren’t," he said. "Boxing out, turnovers and a lack of execution running our offences hurt us."
That being said, Gibson and assistant coach Andrew Sneddon were both proud of the team for winning a silver medal. Not including the result at districts, this was actually the most successful season for the Vikings in the last five years.
At districts, it was also the first time they made the final in the last three.
"Although we lost to a strong JP team, the boys do appreciate their accomplishment, especially after the last two years in which we didn’t get to the final at all," Gibson said.
With the season for the juniors now over, Jurgens added that his Grade 8s will be sad to see the Grade 9 players graduate.
"They're sad to see the guys that will be going up into the seniors... It's like a brotherhood almost," he said. "Honestly, they get along so well. They're a pleasure to coach and it makes going into the gym for practice or taking them on the road really enjoyable."
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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