WINNIPEG, MB–It’s that time again. Schools are out for the holidays, kids are on Christmas break, and the Wesmen Classic is creeping up. Like so many other routine fixtures during the holiday season, the Wesmen Classic has become a basketball tradition in Winnipeg. This is the 46th edition of the Classic and promises a great lineup in all brackets.
For those unaware, the Wesmen Classic [founded in 1967] is one of the largest tournaments in Canada supporting over 100+ teams, and practically covers the entire month of December. The main attractions fall under Dec 27-30 where the Junior Varsity Final, Boys HS and Men’s Tournament take place.
The High School bracket features eight of the top teams in Manitoba, two of which currently hold an NPH National Rankings. (St. Paul’s #11, Garden City #19). On one side of the bracket in the opening round matchups there is Oak Park vs. Glenlawn.
Oak Park boasts a lineup spearheaded by Junior Sesay, Nate Warburton, and a solid surrounding cast. They’ve started the season strong with some good wins and a tough loss at the BSSI to Garden City; Oak Park has won the tournament a record five times, the last ship’ coming in 2009. Their first round opponent [Glenlawn] are no strangers to the Classic, winning the consolation side last year; they bring back some key players Evan Bruce and Brennan Moore.
The other matchup on the top bracket features last year’s third place winner Sturgeon Heights who are coached by Stephen Tackie, the U17 Manitoba Coach which won silver at nationals this past summer. Sturgeon Heights lost a bulk of their key players last year due to graduation but bring back a hungry group. They recently forced Oak Park to double OT in league play. They will face Kildonan East Collegiate who are led by another U17 Manitoba player in Ayob Ayob, who had a great campaign and nationals and will look to lead his team to victory.
On the bottom bracket, Kelvin and St. Paul’s will meet again, these teams recently met where Justus Alleyn went into attack mode. The Crusaders come into this tournament nationally ranked at #11 in the country with a solid surrounding cast of players who will provide matchup problems. Look for Alleyn to lead the way for St. Paul’s as he just picked up MVP of the Daniel McIntyre Christmas Classic. Kelvin was in tough against the visiting team last time these two met just about a week ago, and looked to see the emergence of Mike Doyle, look for him and Marco Valera to provide the offensive spark.
The final opening match is another highly anticipated game, which features the back to back BSSI tournament champs, defending Provincial champs and the defending back to back, five time overall winners of the Wesmen Classic Champions, the Garden City Fighting Gophers. Yes, the Fighting Gophers have put together a resume that states dominance. They’ve started off on the right track again this year, so far undefeated.
This year’s team has Josh Magpantay and Tynan Reyes who will be the team’s leaders, but never underestimate a Phil Penner coached team. Their opponents will be the John Taylor Pipers who came off an impressive season with a solid lineup. This year the Pipers will be in tough with a difficult matchup, they return players Kuet Kuet and Dallas Murphy who had a solid Wesmen Classic last year and finished fourth overall. Their big man Boris Zimbakov is still sidelined with an injury suffered last year and will be missed. However, do not count out these Pipers who know how to win when it counts, including a runner up performance at the REB tournament in Edmonton last season.
These opening round matchups will be extremely eventful as every team has a chance to show what they’ve got in one of the biggest tournaments of the year. There could potentially be a nationally ranked semi-final showdown with #11 St. Paul’s playing #19 Garden City, however the games still need to be played and everyone will be gunning for the Wesmen Classic Trophy.
In addition to the HS Tournament, there is the Junior Varsity Tournament (Grade 9’s and 10’s) in which all games, but the final took place on Dec 14-15. The final will be played on Dec 27 between Kildonan East [who escaped the Semi-Final with a OT victory over Kelvin] and Glenlawn who defeated last year’s champs Garden City to earn the right for a shot at the trophy.
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