By Gord Cochrane
On Thursday Feb. 11 the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School senior basketball team travelled to I.E. Weldon Secondary School in Lindsay for its last Kawartha West Conference basketball game of the season. Both teams came into the game with identical records of 6-1. The teams had played earlier in the season at HHSS when the Red Hawks defeated Weldon in three overtimes. The winner of this game would be the top seed from the Kawartha West Conference. The Red Hawks prevailed winning 44-42.
HHSS jumped out to a 15-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. At halftime the lead had been trimmed to 24-20 and after three quarters they continued to lead 34-31. Late in the fourth quarter Weldon cut the lead to 36-35. But the Red Hawks recovered and maintained control. They played their best game of the year.
Considering that this was for the league championship the Red Hawks were cool and calm throughout the game. HHSS had a season high 15 steals and the Red Hawks committed only four turnovers far and away their lowest turnover total of the year. They were led in scoring by Caleb Schmidt who had a career high 14 points making eight of 10 from the free-throw line. Schmidt also led the team with five steals followed by Jalen Campbell who had three steals Hunter Smith and McKay Coneybeare had two each and Drew Van Lieshout Devon Bangay and Nick Thompson had one steal each. Nick Thompson scored 13 points and led the team with eight rebounds followed by Hunter Smith with five rebounds. The team made three of four from the three point line with McKay Coneybeare making two of those three point shots.
Coach David Waito said this was a total team effort as was demonstrated by the team committing only four turnovers and making 15 steals. The team defence was outstanding. With less than two minutes to go in the game and leading by only a point Bangay forced the man he was guarding to go to his left (something the coaches had been instructing all of the team to do throughout the game) and as a result the Weldon player mishandled the ball and Schmidt got the steal. However had it not been for the basic move by Bangay to force his man left the steal would never have happened. With about one minute to go in the game and leading by only three points the Red Hawks were in their patented zone press. Campbell came out of nowhere (demonstrating great anticipation) stole a pass and fed Schmidt for a layup. It was needed because Weldon then hit a three point shot with about 20 seconds left to pull within two points. But that was the way the score ended the Red Hawks winning by two points.
This was an outstanding win for the team. HHSS is a class A school having a school population of under 500. Weldon is a Class AAA school having a school population of over 1000. At the beginning of the season no one would have picked the Red Hawks to finish out the regular season as the best team in Kawartha West. Yet under the leadership of their two co-captains Smith and Thompson and their other Grade 13 teammate Travis Carroll they went on to post a 7-1 conference record!
Coach Waito could not remember the last time that Haliburton Highlands Secondary School senior basketball team finished first at the end of the regular season.
This season coach Waito had instituted a “Mr. Big” award after each game awarding to the player selected by the three coaches coach Waito assistant coach Gord Cochrane and assistant coach Mike Rieger as the outstanding player of the game. Coach Waito then awards that player a Mr. Big candy bar. For this win the coaches decided to award a Mr. Big candy bar to all eight players on the team since this victory and this league west best standing finish was definitely a total team effort!