The Bentley School Panthers had the Midas touch, capturing Tier II Sr. Boys Team Handball gold at provincials last weekend.
Hosting the Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) provincials in Lacombe, the team had a near-perfect tournament record, and ultimately defeated their Notre Dame High School Cougars opponents 31-28 in the final to take the provincial title.
“It was pretty tight,” said head coach and tournament chair Stephen Lush. “They played a three-three defence against us which nobody had played all year, but we just made some adjustments quickly – we knew how to attack a three-three defence because we practiced that all year.
“We just kept a two to three goal lead throughout the game against (the Cougars) and we ended up winning by three.”
The team only dropped a narrow 28-24 loss in their opening game of the tournament to Old Scona, which actually marked their first loss this year.
Lush said he told his team that if they were going to lose a game, that was the one to lose. He ended up being right, as they would be victorious the rest of the way.
They dominated Bearspaw Christian 42-13, and then finished the round-robin portion with a 39-31 win over Blessed Sacrament.
In the semifinal, they faced the second-ranked Our Lady of the Snows, and used a four-two defence against them which earned them a 39-31 victory that would send them to the final where they came out as champions.
They finished their season with a 15-1 record, and won the Red Deer league, facing teams with much larger pools of student athletes to draw from, such as Hunting Hills, Lindsay Thurber, Notre Dame and St. Joe’s, which only proves how deserving the team was of their provincial title.
“They worked really hard in practice. They do all the drills at full game speed and show up to all practices – they just care about each other,” said Lush.
“This is a special group to coach.”
Meanwhile, Bentley’s girls team had a bronze medal finish at their provincials in Red Deer.
The team dropped their opening game against Old Scona 32-17, but then won over the Central Alberta Christian High School (CACHS) girls 40-21, and 32-20 over the Notre Dame girls.
In the semifinals, however, they’d lose to Mallaig 34-15, but ultimately secured a narrow 29-25 victory over Our Lady of the Snows in the bronze medal match, after rallying back from a 12-3 deficit.
“They worked hard all year, too, but just didn’t have the same speed of attack as the boys did,” said Lush. “At times, it would come back to haunt us and our defence would get us into trouble with penalties, but they fought through the adversity and came away with bronze which is really good.”
CACHS, meanwhile, didn’t quite have the tournament they expected to, finishing in last place. Their closest game of provincials came against Notre Dame when they fell 17-13. After that, they were doubled up by Bentley, fell 29-9 to Old Scona, and then 29-14 to Mayerthorpe in the 7/8 place game Saturday.
The Bentley Junior High Panthers were also golden at their provincials, defeating Vegreville 27-24 in the final. The Junior High Lady Panthers won bronze, topping Sherwood Park 14-12 in their final match of the tournament.
“I’m very proud of both teams for the work they put in and how they represented their town and their community,” Lush said.