High school basketball tournament brings in top talent from across Canada
The Notre Dame Invitational got underway Thursday, February 9, 2012, at Notre Dame high school for the sixth time since its inception in 2007. This year's edition features the toughest competition to date, with 10 top-ranked teams in attendance, stemming from six provinces across Canada.
Calgary's top-seeded representatives at the invitational this year are the Bishop O'Byrne Bobcats and the host team, Notre Dame Pride. The two teams are ranked third and 10th in Alberta, respectively, and both believe they have what it takes to bring home a 1st place finish.
Notre Dame, which has the exclusive comfort of playing in its own gym, is led by head coach Mike McFarland. Despite having arguably the flashiest players in the tournament, McFarland believes that defence and sound fundamentals will be the keys to the team's success.
"I think our team can score with anyone; we just need to play good, solid defence," McFarland said. "We definitely have the best leapers in the tournament and I think they're going to put on a show for the crowd, but to win we'll have to play strong defence."
However, McFarland's Pride recently suffered a significant loss when team's starting point guard, Branton McFarland the coach's son, was injured in their Week 6 victory over Western Canada High School.
Filling in at the 1-spot for McFarland is a six-foot Grade 12 student named Lado
|Here is a complete list off all teams participating in the tournament:
Holy Heart High School – St. John's , Nfld – ranked No. 2 in the province
Dakota Collegiate – Winnipeg , Man. – ranked No. 5 in the province
M.B.C.I. – Winnipeg , Man. – last year's NDI tournament champions and ranked No. 10 in the province
Bedford Road Collegiate – Saskatoon , Sask.
St. George's School , Vancouver , B.C. – ranked No. 4 in the province
St. Francis Xavier High School – Edmonton , Alta. – ranked No. 2 in the province
Bishop O'Byrne High School – Calgary , Alta. – ranked No. 3 in the province
Notre Dame – Calgary , Alta. – ranked No. 10 in the province
St. Francis High School – Calgary , Atla. – ranked No. 12 in the province
Medicine Hat High School – Medicine Hat, Alta.
Yokwe. Taking over at a position as integral as the point guard can be a difficult task. Yokwe will be faced with a great deal of new responsibility as a starter.
"Yokwe is doing a pretty good job so far. It's a big responsibility bringing the ball up the court and he understands that," coach McFarland said. "He's made some mistakes but he's working hard and we can live with that."
Yokwe added, "I just have to stay calm and get the team involved when I can and we'll be good. We have two of the best players here in Kingsley Robert-Enzenta and Emmanuel Joshua and they can get up with anyone."
Bishop O'Byrne heads into the invitational with an entirely different approach to success. The Bobcats have some of the biggest and quickest players in the tournament and head coach Kurt Luttmerding intends to utilize his players' size and speed advantages as much as possible.
"Our strength is our size. If we're not getting the ball inside we're going to be in trouble," Luttmerding said. "We also love to fast break and put pressure on the opposing team. We want to get the ball down the floor and see if their five guys can stop my five guys on the break."
Calgary's top competition is considered to be Newfoundland's Holy Heart High School, Vancouver's St. George's School, and last year's invitational winner, Winnipeg's M.B.C.I. Holy Heart put on a scoring clinic in their kickoff game Feb. 9 versus Medicine Hat High School, which included a dazzling 61-point 1st half performance. In other action Dakota Collegiate narrowly defeated St. Francis Xavier High School and Notre Dame took down Bedford Road Collegiate to round out the night.
The Notre Dame Invitational finals take place Saturday, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Although the outcome is still ripe with uncertainty, the path to the finals will undoubtedly be filled with intense competition and excitement for players and fans alike.
- By Daniel Ball