Saskatchewan Madness Tips Off: Hoop-La Preview

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Joe De Ciman @ Last Year’s Hoopla | ROY FLEECE , REGINA LEADER-POST

While March Madness fills everyone’s television screens, Saskatchewan high school ballers will look to create their own ‘One Shining Moment’ this weekend as 48 high schools that made this year’s SHSAA Hoopla Provincial tournament will do battle in Saskatoon this weekend.

A tournament that hosts the Final Fours of every level of SK high school basketball for boys/girls as well as the eight team 5A bracket consisting of Saskatoon and Regina’s best schools, Hoopla is the showcase event of one of the country’s most underrated hoops regions. A very competitive tournament that saw Colorado State University’s Joe De Ciman fail to even lead his Leboldus squad to the 5A final last year will once again be hotly contested and many players who have their Hoopla moment carry on to CIS success with the Regina Cougars and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.

NPH has you covered with all the storylines to watch, the scores, the breakout performances and recaps of the action starting Thursday and wrapping up Saturday night.

Players to Watch (5A)

Alex Unruh- Evan Hardy Souls

Of the Evan Hardy Souls out of Saskatoon, Alex Unruh is one of the province’s best point guards. The fast Unruh has an amazing combination of speed and handles that make him a force to be reckoned with in the transition game, as well as possessing the passing game required to make use of that speed. After an undefeated season and a blow out win for the Saskatoon city title after losing in last year’s final to Bishop Mahoney by one point, Unruh is ready to take on the province in his senior year. Helping lead the Souls to their first Bridge City title since 1992 was a nice start last weekend, but Unruh and the Souls will be one of the tournament favorites and anything short of the 5A title will be a letdown. With performances like his 32 points at the Balfour Classic, the Souls can count on Unruh to take them as far as he possibly can.

Alex Unruh, One of the top PG’s in Saskatchewan | Courtesy: StarPhoenix

Chad Fulton- Evan Hardy Souls

Fulton cracks the 5A Players to Watch list based on his performance over Holy Cross in the city final. Fulton had a personal 14-2 run in the first quarter against the Crusaders and ended up with a staggering 34 point performance to cap off his team’s undefeated season in Saskatoon play. Fulton averages just over ten points a night, but his nine three pointers against Holy Cross put him on the list for the odd chance that Fulton carries over his March magic into this weekend.

Chan De Ciman- Leboldus Suns

Playing in Hoopla last season as a grade nine freshmen and with a deep college basketball bloodline, Chan De Ciman is hoping to become Saskatchewan basketball’s next big thing. With his brother Joe averaging 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists last season in his senior year before heading to Fort Collins to play for Colorado State Rams and two sisters with NCAA and CIS success, the bar has been set high. Chan has been one of the best point guards in the RIBL this season and already shows his university pedigree. A young player with a tonne of pressure on him, De Ciman will need to perform in a tough draw if his Suns are going to make a Hoopla run. They play Bishop Mahoney of Saskatoon Thursday night in the quarterfinals before a likely Unruh Vs. De Ciman match up in the Final Four that would be surely one of the highlights of the tournament, giving the Golden Suns a difficult road to the final. The youngest of the De Ciman clan that boasts two NCAA players and a CIS Women’s National Champion has had the spotlight on him since the minute his brother graduated, and will need to have a big weekend if his team is going to avenge their semifinal loss to their Queen City rivals Campbell in last year’s semifinal. While being inexperienced, De Ciman is used to the pressure of carrying his last name in Regina and with deadly three point shooting and passing ability is a threat to get hot at any time which will keep the Suns in the mix this weekend.

4A Players to Watch

Daniel Mandziuk- Yorkton Regional Raiders

While Saskatoon’s Unrah and Regina’s De Ciman hold down the 5A point guard discussion, down the highway in Yorkton, Daniel Mandziuk has quietly been one of the best players in Saskatchewan this season. Blessed with nearly every skill you can want on a basketball court, Mandziuk has been touted by his coach Jason Payne all season as one of the best point guards in the province.

The former Saskatchewan Provincial team player has cracked the top five in Raider career scoring and assists this season after four years as the team’s top guard and after suffering a beatdown from Moose Jaw Central in last year’s 4A provincial semifinal will be looking to improve on last year’s Hoopla performance. After leading a Raiders run in the fourth quarter last weekend to get to Hoopla with two pull up triples, it seems that Mandziuk is ready for one last hurrah at Hoopla. With a very tough draw against one seed St. Mary’s on Friday afternoon, the Raiders will need Mandziuk’s versatility as he will need to rebound, score, and distribute the ball at a high level if the Raiders are going to get their first win over a St. Mary’s team that has beaten them three times this season.

Brian Tolentino- Prince Albert St. Mary’s

Playing for the number ranked team in 4A ball, Tolentino is regarded as one of the best players on St. Mary’s by the 4A coaches spoken to before the tournament and will be one of the stars of a Friday semifinal. After a heartbreaking upset at the hands of Meadow Lake one game short of Hoopla last season, St. Mary’s will need Tolentino’s best effort if they are going to avoid another provincial playoff upset this season.

Dax Whitehead- Moose Jaw Central Cyclones

Playing for last year’s 4A runner ups, Dax Whitehead is the Cyclones best post player on a team that is coming into Hoopla as the second seed going against Regina 4A champions O’ Neill who are coached by former U of R Cougars Jeff Lukomski and Adam Huffman. Whitehead will give his Cyclones an advantage down low and is a huge part of a Cyclones team that likes to bang down low. O’ Neill will be representing the Queen City in the 4A If the Cyclones are going to get their second straight trip to the 4A title game they are going to need a dominating performance from Whitehead down low.

Ben Redl- Yorkton Regional Raiders

Another former Saskatchewan provincial team product, Ben Redl has garnered the interest of CIS schools this season and is closing on the YRHS rebounding record going into his final weekend of high school basketball. Like his running mate in Daniel Mandziuk, Redl has been a key player for the Raiders since grade nine and possesses a mix of face up and back to the basket post moves that make him one the 4A’s and province’s best power forwards. A top five career scorer for the Raiders, Redl has been an automatic double double for the Regional all season and is coming off a 42 point night against Swift Current just three weeks ago nearly breaking the school’s single season record. Being able to step outside and knock down the three as well as beat usually much slower post defenders off the dribble, Redl gives coaches match up nightmares and will be looking to end his high school career in his school’s record book and with a provincial championship.

Other Players to Watch

Caleb Hoffman- St. Breiux

All the way down in the 1A tournament Caleb Hoffman has been one of the hidden gems in SK basketball this season, with small Catholic schools like Harvest City bringing top level talent to the lower divisions of Saskatchewan basketball in recent years Hoffman fits the mold as an underdog who can light up the gym. If you are at the gym where the 1A tournament is playing, keep an eye out as this guy can put the ball in the basket at will.

Thursday Preview

Evan Hardy Vs. Regina Sheldon (Marion Graham 6:00 p.m.)

Evan Hardy will look to avoid the upset at Marion Graham in the first game of Hoopla 2013 as the Souls carry in their undefeated Saskatoon league season and title into round one against Regina Sheldon. With their convincing win over Holy Cross less than a week ago, it seems that the Souls will just be too much for Regina Sheldon to handle in this 1/8 match up.

Leboldus Golden Suns Vs. Bishop Mahoney (Evan Hardy 8:00 p.m.)

One of the tighter games of Quarterfinal Thursday will see Regina’s Leboldus try to shake off their loss in the RIBL Championship last weekend and beat last season’s Saskatoon champs  to set up a date with the winner of Evan Hardy/Sheldon in the final. Bishop Mahoney finished third in Saskatoon and allowed just 57 points a game which gives them a claim that they will move on. With Chan De Ciman leading the charge for the Suns and the potential of an Alex Unruh/De Ciman meeting in the next round, one has to hope the Suns win for entertainment value, but Bishop Mahoney is a solid program and will give them everything they have and more in what could be the game of the night.

Campbell Collegiate Vs. Walter Murray (6:00 PM  Bishop Mahoney)

Finalists in last year’s Hoopla after ruining Joe De Ciman’s season, Campbell will once again be looking to go on a run deep in this tournament. With a 16-1 record in Regina league play the Tartans are a contender in this tournament while Walter Murray’s 8-6 record in Saskatoon would point that Campbell is the favorite in this game, but do have a great defensive record just allowing 57 points per game in those fourteen games. If Walter Murray can get some baskets and keep the game in the fities they might just have a chance if Campbell goes cold, but the Regina champs are not used to losing with their 16-1 record.

Holy Cross Vs. Balfour (8:00 PM St. Joseph)

In the last game of the evening Holy Cross will look to bounce back from getting blown out by Evan Hardy in their city championship against Balfour, who finished third in Regina with a 14-3 record and set up an intriguing match up between the Saskatoon’s second placed team and Regina’s third placed Balfour. Holy Cross is coming off a tough loss, but Evan Hardy are undefeated so one cannot take too much stock in it, both these teams have had respectable seasons as top teams in their leagues so this game will be tight.

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