It was a tough week for high school athletes and coaches in Saskatchewan. Senior basketball teams around the province were awaiting the fateful deadline of 3:00 PM on Wednesday for the official decision surrounding HOOPLA, the SHSAA's end of season provincial championships for senior basketball.

With negotiations remaining at a stalemate, HOOPLA organizers were forced to make the unfortunate, and unpopular decision to cancel the full tournament. The athletes did receive some solace in the fact that a one-day tournament was scheduled in its place. The day will see 1 vs 2 matchups for the gold medal, and 3 vs 4 playing for the bronze medal.

The two west-central Saskatchewan teams that qualified for HOOPLA this year are the #1 seeded McLurg School Broncs from Wilkie in 1A, and the LCBI Bisons who earned a spot in the 2A bracket as the #4 seed. They earned their way into the finals after finishing in the top two at their respective regional tournaments. 

Reaching out to each school, WestCentralOnline spoke with Broncs' coach Mark Myszczyszyn over the phone about the disappointing turn of events that led to a one day tournament, instead of the grandest stage in Saskatchewan.

"Our team will be competing Saturday." said the coach, assuming that other teams around the province will also be taking in the final game of the season. "This is kind of a chance of a lifetime for these kids. As a coach, as a father, as a teacher, as a community member; I am glad these kids get a chance to showcase their talents. This isn't just this season, these kids have worked hard ever since starting the sport, and get a chance now to showcase what they can do, and what they have learned over the years."

The Wilkie roster has five Grade 12 players, as part of quite the impressive roster as a whole. Proving their mite as the top seeded team, Wilkie is no stranger to a higher level of competition.

"Very successful season. Played lots of schools two or three, even four levels higher in classification, and been successful." said Myszczyszyn, as the team was looking good headed into this years chance for HOOPLA redemption.

"Last year we lost the gold match. It was a tough one, don't know that we are over that, but if you are not successful it just makes you come back and work harder. These girls have done that, so we hope this is the year they can get what they are working towards."

275993737_153243070454042_8783808418314897616_n.jpgWilkie's girls basketball program has been no stranger to success, this photo from their regionals win in 2022 (via McLurg School on Facebook)

The Broncs' success isn't for a lack of effort. They practice every chance they get, and it shows on the court, especially at the bigger tournaments. 

Even though it's not the tournament they envisioned, having the chance to go for gold is all the team is thinking about.

"It's all working out in the end. It's not what it could have been, but I know the emotions, the anger, the sadness. Everything." said Myszczyszyn, as the past week has provided a rollercoaster of emotions.

The coach was in Regina earlier in the week with his kids, doing their best to share the voice of the players.

"On the way home we found out the news. I haven't even had a chance to speak with the team," said Myszczyszyn during the interview Thursday morning. "I know what they were all feeling, and the community and the parents. The staff, and our student body too."

Myszczyszyn's squad out of Wilkie will be taking on an opponent from nearby in Asquith on Saturday. The game tips off Saturday at 3:30 from Vanier Collegiate in Moose Jaw.

While the Broncs' look to end their season with a gold medal, the LCBI Bisons senior girls basketball team has a chance to claim a bronze medal against Norquay in their single game at HOOPLA 2024.

"We are attending the one day Provincial Championship tournament in Moose Jaw this weekend." said LCBI girls basketball coach Samantha Ridgewell in an email.

The tournament being cancelled couldn't have come at a worse time, as LCBI was entering HOOPLA following a thrilling weekend at regionals.

"It was definitely an emotional roller coaster for the team over the last week. On Saturday, we won the regional final in comeback fashion and the girls really came together as a team." described Ridgewell. "After every point, turnover, rebound, you name it; they took over that gymnasium."

That ecstatic feeling didn't last for long, as the threat of HOOPLA being cancelled loomed large.

"So to go from that type of a game, to then finding out the news that HOOPLA might not happen was devastating for the girls. Practices were hard because you didn't know if you should be pushing hard and preparing for provincials, or enjoying what could be your last practice together as a group."

Treating the practices as a mix of fun, and competitive, was tough for Ridgewell as coach. Even though the shift from a full HOOPLA field to only a single-day tournament was a tough pill to swallow, Ridgewell shared just how excited the team was to learn they had one more game to play.

"When the girls found out about the announcement, they were through the roof as the saying goes." 

It might not be for gold, but the team will take it.

"It's hard not getting the chance to compete for a spot in the championship game, but we understand that SHSAA is going above and beyond to make even a one day championship happen, so we will absolutely take playing in the bronze medal game versus nothing at all." said coach. "The girls have been refocused and are excited for a chance to play for a medal and finish out their season!"

LCBI will be playing the bronze medal game from Riverview Collegiate in Moose Jaw, playing Norquay 1:45 Saturday afternoon.

bball scoreboard.jpg The senior basketball season will end this weekend, in different fashion than many would have hoped for (Photo via McLurg School on Facebook)

On Saturday, 23 total high school basketball games will be played between 12:00 and 7:00 PM across the 1A-5A brackets. It might not be a typical year at Saskatchewan's provincial championships, but there isn't any less reason for HOOPLA surrounding the festivities.