It's a year where the North Battleford Comprehensive High School Vikings senior girls basketball team has moved up from 4A to 5A, and it just so happens it's also a season where they have an incredibly young team.
But that hasn't stopped the Vikings from making waves in senior girls basketball.
This past weekend, they went a perfect 4-0 and won the 12-team Viking Invitational, taking down stiff competition along the way, including Moose Jaw Peacock, Estevan, and Swift Current.
"To be honest with you, it was a little surprising," Vikings head coach Bryan Cottini said of taking home the gold. "When I put the draw together, I ranked all the teams and I put us at around five or six out of 12. So to jump from that five, six range up to number one was quite an accomplishment for those girls."
There are no Grade 11s and just two Grade 12s on the Vikings this year.
"My two Grade 12s are doing a great job and we're taking down some big names," Cottini said. "We're making some ripples in girls basketball with this young team."
By far the biggest positive for the team this weekend was seeing their confidence rise as the tournament went on, which eventually resulted in them winning the gold medal by 20 points over Swift Current.
"Everything that we've been working on is starting to finally click," Cottini said. "It's very gratifying as a coach to see everything that you've been doing come together.
"Hopefully, it's kind of a sign of things to come."
Cottini said a stark difference between this year's team and teams he has coached in the past is how they have changed their defensive approach.
In each of his nine seasons coaching girls basketball, he has used the full court press.
"We're usually a pressing team and a really fast running team but...we've had to kind of change our philosophy," he said. "I think it's taken this long to kind of have some of the girls buy in to this new philosophy. But it's starting to pay off."
Next up for the senior girls is the 'Pink Game' on Feb. 28, where the team wears pink jerseys and helps raise funds for cancer research. They will be playing P.A. St. Mary's in that game, set for 6 p.m.
They also have tournaments in March in Prince Albert and Weyburn before regionals on March 16 and 17 (also in Weyburn).
Because the Vikings are now in 5A, they'll have to finish top two out of seven teams at regionals in order to qualify for HOOPLA.
"We're going to be in tough but it sure helps that we beat a bunch of those teams this weekend," Cottini said. "I think that will give us a lot of confidence moving forward."
Senior Boys also win gold
The Comp Vikings senior boys basketball team captured a gold medal at a 12-team tournament at Prince Albert St. Mary's over the weekend.
The Vikings beat P.A. Carlton in the semifinal by 20 points in their first head-to-head meeting this season and then topped Aden Bowman from Saskatoon in the final.
"The boys are starting to gel," Vikings head coach Jamie Sommerfeld said. "We didn't allow teams to creep back in once we got the lead. That's something that we had been doing in the earlier part of the year...This weekend, we kind of kept that nice buffer."
Sommerfeld did say this result wasn't a surprise, as they have a strong team that should be winning rural tournaments.
"We're kind of getting back into our regular ciruit — our 4A, 5A rural circuit...so these are games that we should be winning and tournaments we should be on top," Sommerfeld said. "[We] are kind of this young, talented group that's now kind of hit their senior years with me and it's kind of all just starting to gel together."
The Vikings are led by Grade 12 starters Damon Dutton and Jaron Armstrong, and Grade 11s Jordan Poitras and Riley Rathwell.
Moving forward, consistency will be an area to focus on.
"A little bit more consistency with our shooting and our ball movement," Sommerfeld said when asked about areas to work on. "If we have a good shooting game, we can be very good."
Next up for the senior boys is their home tournament on March 2 and 3, which will feature 12 teams.
Then they have a weekend off, followed by regionals in Warman. The Vikings will need to finish in the top-2 at regionals to qualify for Hoopla, which is in Prince Albert this year.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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