Sporting history was made in Hobbema when the Ermineskin Junior Senior High School played host to the provincial boys’ high school A basketball championships from Mar. 15-17.
This marked the first time the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association had staged a provincial championship at a First Nations school.
Competition was tough and the 12th seeded Ermineskin Eagles lost all three of their games.
“It’s always nice to win games,” said Coach Mike Sonnenberg, “but it was an experience for us.”
The tournament featured 12 teams. As the host, the Hobbema squad, which posted a 2-7 regular season record in its own league, did not have to qualify for the provincials. All of the other 11 entrants had to enjoy some on-court successes in order to advance to the tournament.
This provincial championship featured schools with less than 100 eligible students to play a sport.
Sonnenberg said the team was fully aware his side would face some stiff opposition at the tournament. The Eagles were downed 49-15 by Edmonton’s Concordia High School in their opener. Ryley School then beat the Eagles 63-42. And Glendon School defeated the hosts 63-20 in their final game.
The top-seeded Acme Redmen ended up winning the gold medal at the provincials. The Redmen defeated Coaldale Christian School 60-47 in the championship final.
Despite his team’s results, Sonnenberg is thrilled his school successfully won its bid, in the fall of 2010, to host this year’s provincial tournament.
“I think it meant a lot and it really boosted our athletic program,” he said.
Keith MacQuarrie, the principal of the Ermineskin school, considered it an honour to have the Alberta championship.
“I think it was huge to be able to host this event,” he said. “We had a lot of media coverage from it.”
And the attention thrust upon the school and community was all positive. That hasn’t always been the case for Hobbema as in recent years murders and gang violence in the First Nations community have made national headlines.
“In the past a lot of people, especially other teams and their parents, had concerns when they were coming to our school,” MacQuarrie said. “I think (hosting the tournament) has really changed perceptions. People are talking about what a positive experience they had.”
MacQuarrie believes his school will submit a bid to host the provincial tournament again.
“I think we’ll do it again in the future,” he said. “It was a huge success. We’re really proud of the way the whole thing unfolded.”
The only other team sport that Ermineskin currently fields is girls volleyball.
“I can definitely see us hosting (the provincials) in volleyball in the future,” MacQuarrie said.
Photo captiopn: Zach Whitebear (#4) waits for a pass from Ermineskin Eagles teammate Jarred Johnson.