Sturgeon Heights Huskies, the Ones and Only
Could you imagine doing something, trying to accomplish something, anything, for eighty years and never getting it done, never succeeding? Writing a book but never getting it published, creating your own music concerto however, being unable to complete it, or playing a certain sport and never winning? It has been over eighty years combined to date and neither Collège Silver Heights Collegiate Huskies nor Sturgeon Creek Collegiate Schooners boys' teams have ever won a provincial basketball championship, at the junior varsity or varsity level. The closest either of the schools have gotten to being crowned, "the very best team in the province", was the junior varsity boys' team of Silver Heights, earning more than one opportunity to gain the new rank. The year two thousand and seven was a historical moment for both schools, making it the first year the collaborated high schools, Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate would begin its complete and total dominance in the magical sport created by Dr. James Naismith.
I was thirteen at the time, my father and I on our way to the Silver Heights varsity boys' basketball game at Miles Mac Collegiate for the tournament finals; the Huskies versus home team, the Miles Mac Buckeyes.
You see, my whole family loves basketball. All eight
of us are involved in the sport in our own way. My mother is a
community club convener and a coach, both of my older brothers
play and coach, while two of my three little sisters are each on
a team of their own, and the littlest of the three girls is
growing up very nicely to love the game as much as the rest of
us. I really enjoy watching basketball with my family; in fact,
it is one of the few things that keep us all from ripping each
other's heads off. Nevertheless, there was something different
about it when I would watch a live game with just my father as my
Denis Dupasquier and I had met Mr. Schepp through a basketball-training program that I participated in from grade seven and on. This program was called the Center for Performance. Schepp was the head coach and coordinator of Manitoba's Center for Performance, as well as the head coach for this remarkably talented varsity boys' basketball team at Silver Heights. He and Mr. Tackie, as I knew him, were my two favorite coaches. Steven Tackie was the previous coach for all these young Huskies, being the junior varsity coach. Kirby Schepp was coaching an amazing group of student-athletes who had an almost unbelievable record, completely unblemished to this point in the season. It was an exceptional team, having an exceptional season, and I was loving every single moment of it.
My father and I got to the gym partly through the first quarter. Near the beginning of the game, we hadn't missed much. As the game progressed with each dribble, and the game got more exciting as shots were being fired up from both sides, the huskies finally took the lead.
The game went on, and we would talk about all kinds of basketball-related things, including play-by-play, myself always looking to learn and improve as a player. We would discuss player's strengths and weaknesses according to how we saw the player play the game, the teams' strategies, what defenses and offenses both teams played, as well as what each team would do as a play or offensive set in order to score against each of the opponent's defenses. I would have liked to call ourselves a couple of unprofessional scouts. A question I had been asking myself repeatedly for weeks had come into the conversation. My question was a question of schooling. Currently, I attended Collège Béliveau, a simple "Triple A" school.
The A's are to determine how many kids registered at that school, four "A"s being the most in Manitoba, representing usually over seven hundred students, a single "A" meaning the least amount of students.
Silver Heights was classified as a AAAA school, whose basketball program has never been better and possibly the best out of any other high school in the province. The competitive level between a "AAA" school and a "AAAA" school was incredible. Collège Béliveau was definitely a decent school for academics. However, if you had any dreams of getting a sport scholarship, or winning a provincial title, there was extremely little chance of that happening at Béliveau.
The game finally finished, the Huskies picking up yet another victory along with the tournament's championship trophy, adding another notch on their belts to help them keep track of the nearly countless wins.
The ride home was shorter than I had expected the feeling of victory and excitement still in us, as if we had not watched the game, but played in the game. All the emotion must have been with me still, because the only words I remember saying to my father in the van on the way home, were "Dad, I want to go to Silver Heights next year."
Of course, we had not even considered me attending Silver Heights an option. The distance, in addition, was very far from where we lived, the school being in St. James, and our residence in Windsor Park, at the other end of the city. Even if I had sent in an application form to attend the high school, it was not likely I would be accepted. I was not in the same school district, obviously, and the count of students had passed the maximum already at Silver. When the school had been built originally, it was meant to hold somewhat five hundred students. However, the students registered as a husky had easily surpassed this amount. Over seven hundred students attended my desired school. Applicants from their own school district were being turned down because of the overflow of kids at the school. Only someone who came from a "feeder school" was guaranteed to attend Silver the following year. A feeder school is simply a middle school, from grade six to eight usually, whom all the students from that school would move on to the same high school. The principles decline students from their own school district, and I am expecting myself, a random kid from the other end of the city, to be accepted to enrol the following year…was this for real?
To me, at the time, the option of traveling across the city was the only one I would consider. I had recently filled out an application to attend Dakota Collegiate, which would have been much more adequate than Silver Heights. Dakota was much closer and easier to get to for a ninth grade scholar. Dakota's sports program was easily superior to the one at Béliveau. However, my "plan A" had failed for the same reason. It was unlikely I get into my desired school, just too many undergraduates at the time and not enough room for any more students.
Later that night my parents and I had an extremely important discussion about my future education. It went on for days, on and off until the final decision had been made, but those few days were dreadful! I was almost overjoyed when the conclusion was presented. Desperation, joy, and hope were my feelings when my parents told me that they were allowing me to fill out and send a form registering me into Collège Sturgeon Height Collegiate, as it would be the year I might attend if all went well. If all goes well.
As a kid, you might not realize what the chances are of anything happening as well as your parents do. Therefore, when my parents gave me permission to send in my forms to Sturgeon, they knew the chances were very low that I would actually get in. Nevertheless, I was a kid, and I was always hopeful. To me, the slightest chance that I would get in meant the whole world to me.
Many weeks went by, which felt like an eternity of torture. The second day of May, the year of two thousand seven, was the day I officially learned the meaning of defeat; according to the Encarta Dictionary of the English Language (North America), the definition of defeat is, "to cause something to fail or to fall short of realization".
I have failed to win basketball games before, failed to win a championship game even, I have broken a bone and had not been able to play in some of the most important games I might have had the chance to play in. I had failed a test in school and failed in my own standards through life at times. Out of all the failures in my life, I have never felt defeated. The second day of May, the year of two thousand seven, was the day I officially learned the meaning of defeat.
May 02, 2007
Mr. & Mrs. D. Dupasquier
Dear Parent /Guardian,
Thank you for expressing an interest in registering your child at Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate for the 2007-08 school year. Unfortunately, our current registrations have placed the school near its maximum enrollment for next year. Therefore, we will not be able to accept your application at this time. We will however keep your application on file. Should you still be interested in attending Collège Sturgeon Height Collegiate, please contact our school office during the first week of September and we will review our enrollment at that time.
Mr. B. Corrigan
I felt as if I was seven years old again, and my parents had promised me that they would take me to Disney World for two weeks, except my parents left without me, leaving me home alone with nothing. My dream disappeared faster than Usain Bolt could sprint a single meter, without a thing I could do about it. I was facing my worst nightmare.
I refused to graduate from Collège Béliveau. In my mind, it was just a pitiful AAA school with no chance of winning a provincial basketball championship. However, I knew of no other options. All I could do at this point was suck it up for another year and re-apply at Dakota and Sturgeon. I could also apply at Glenlawn Collegiate for my grade ten year.
Over two months had gone by, school was almost finished, and my mood was the same as the day I had read that evil document. I walked home slightly slower than usual since May 2nd. I did not know it at the time, but one of my favorite days of my life had finally come. June 20th was the date, around four o'clock in the afternoon. I got home from school, said hi to my parents, and went right to my room. My bed was never made; it was always the exact same way I left in the morning before I left for school. I knew something was up when the sheets and cover neatly covered my mattress and every one of my pillows laid overtop, where they were supposed to be. Right in the middle of my blanket, was the brightest envelope I had ever seen. As I crept up slowly, I did not know what to expect. Then suddenly, my heart stopped. Written on the envelope was, "Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate". I could not open it yet. I was not ready for what I might be about to read. My heart was racing, but still it beat the slowest I can remember. The thought that I already was not accepted, so it could not get any worse came to mind. I opened it carefully, holding my breath.
June 20, 2007
Mr. & Mrs. Dupasquier
Dear Parent /Guardian
Please accept this letter as confirmation that your son/daughter has been accepted for registration at Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate for the 2007-08 school year. We look forward to working with you and your child to provide the best possible educational experience…
…Thank you for choosing Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate.
Peace, finally! My life, once again had a meaning. I do not remember quite fainting, but I fell on my bed face first, and laid there. Whatever happened next, I do not remember any of it.
I love the white fluff that falls from the sky. It is really quite beautiful. It builds up higher each day; leaving me more excited with every flake. When I see snow falling, it only means one thing. Basketball season approaches.
Over forty people came to tryouts, as oppose to the poor total of ten that would come at Béliveau. Those tryouts were some of the hardest, most tiring times of basketball in my life. Nevertheless, I knew we would be good. My dad thought we would be ranked in the top ten, around seventh or eighth, he would tell me. I knew we were going to be contenders for the provincial championship that year. Moreover, contenders, we were!
The season went well; we had an exceptional season, making it to the finals in every tournament we had entered. We had won thirty-one games going in to provincials, ranked first overall, all season long, and only had two losses. We were conference champions and several tournament champions. The most unusual thing about this spectacular team was that we consisted of fifteen, blessed, young and talented players.
First round of provincials, we matched up against Daniel Mac. A team we had only played once all season, and only came out victorious by a mere basket. A match up, I am sure, many people were worried about. Huskies prevailed after all, in an easy enough win by over twenty points. Next competitors were the River East Kodiaks. We had beaten them the only time we played which was in a tournament, on their home court, in the finals. We proved why we were number one by beating the Kodiaks without great difficulty.
Now entering the finals, it was destined from the beginning of the season to be the Sturgeon Heights Huskies vs. the Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute Hawks. A match up we knew we would have to come across in the finals. Previously we were the victors, with a seven-point win and most recently a thirteen-point win.
I cannot tell you what went wrong that day, but we just were not feeling it. I guess nobody wanted to win. If someone was a Huskies fan in the crowd, then it was an ugly game to watch for that person. We allowed one player from the Hawks to score thirty five points, and as a team, they must have scored over thirty transition points (MBCI transitioning from defense to offense). After that loss of fourteen points, there were some tears in the locker room. We could not have imagined a season going any better until this last game, where we could not come up with whatever it took to win.
The loss sunk on us all over the summer, pushing us to work that much harder. We knew we would have at least seven returning players from this team, and were very capable of having even greater success than the past season. We went to work. All seven players worked their hearts out, encouraging each other to get to a gym and play. We almost all had each other on speed dial. The kind of bond we needed for next season, and lucky for us, it came naturally.
November 2008 approached sooner than we expected it too. All summer someone waits for basketball season, training as much as that person can, and then the season comes, and the person just wishes that he/she had more time to train! Basketball players are alike, no matter what age, sex, race, height, etc. If you have the kind of love for the game that my team did during the 2008-09 season had, it is all the same.
Tryouts ended, and we had our final roster of fourteen players this season. The seven players from the previous year's team had all made it, which was a good sign. I do not think anybody could have predicted the potential for this team while he or she might have watched the tryouts. Of course, the players talked amongst themselves about goals such as going undefeated, but more importantly, winning that provincial championship, the redemption we owed ourselves.
We had one player less than the previous season, and our first tournament, as always, was the Wesmen Classic. It is funny now that I look back on it; I personally thought we could have won the provincial title and not lost a single game. However, our first loss came with only three wins making us undefeated at the time. Oak Park, our rival school, was the team that blemished our record for good.
As the season went on, we got better almost every day and kept winning games. I was reminded of the last varsity team to play at Silver Heights, before the collision of the schools. Put to the test in a league game, we got the opportunity to play against Oak Park once again. This time the game was played not at the University of Winnipeg, but at Oak Park's own gym. With a different result than the last, Huskies came out with the "W", and we were so happy it felt like we just beat them in the conference finals.
Through the season, we played Oak Park another three times before conference playoffs, winning all three. We had trouble getting our whole team to practice more often that not. Our chemistry was not as good as it was the past season, but we were able to work it out. We had not lost another game since the loss against Oak Park in the Classic. Going in to our conference finals our record consisted of thirty wins and that same lonely loss. The fact that we had beaten the only team that beat us, the last four times we played, gave us the number one rank in the province all year long and our rivals, only losing to us, being the number two rank all year.
The conference finals were amazing to play in, our coach, Mr. Tackie, had arranged the players to be announced to the crowd and the national anthem to be sang as if it was an Olympic game. We were competing for the WWAC Championship that we had won last year, and we were hosting, so it would be quite the disappointment if we lost. The work of all the players and coaches, though, were too much for the Oak Park Raiders. Sturgeon Heights was able to keep our division title with us.
The thirty-first win and conference title gave us the number one seed in provincials and a bye past the first round. Our opponent would be the Garden City Gophers, a team we handled easily with a near forty-point win. Our next game would be against the fourth ranked Daniel Mac. They were a tough match up this year, just as they were a tough match up for us last year. Turned out we had few troubles with them and won by double-digits. This semi final win brought us to the provincial finals, played at Tec Voc High School.
Our redemption game, as I liked to call it, was played on Monday March 16th. We were expecting the Raiders to be our victims for the very last game of the year. However, due to a shocking, double overtime upset by a sixth ranked Kelvin High School team, our predictions were wrong. Kelvin was the only school ranked in the top ten all year that we had not played yet. We did not know what to expect from them.
Game tip off was won, and the whole first quarter was an awkward blur. Everyone was everywhere and the score was a tight eleven to nine in our favor. It was possibly the ugliest basketball quarter I had ever seen or played in. The rest of the game went much better, we were more composed and had pulled each other together to take a twenty-point lead at one time during the game. Kelvin was a team that shot the ball very well. When we messed up in our defensive rotations, and they got a somewhat open shot, all we could do was get ready to pass the ball in from out of bounds after the points had been added to Clippers' score. Before we could realize, our twenty-point lead had leaked down to just a fourteen-point margin, and fourteen points in a basketball game could be scored under two quick minutes. This was not going to happen.
After a time out, we walked onto the court and shook off whatever we needed to shake off. For some of us, it might have been a thought stuck in our mind about a missed shot, replaying it as if we had missed the shot over a hundred times. Our bench was louder than ever, the Husky fans were out cheering the fans of Kelvin, and each player wearing a white jersey, got more energy because of that.
The countdown had begun, and the singing of the crowd, "Na, na, na, na; Na, na, na, na; Hey, hey, hey; Goodbye!" The buzzer went, and the ball was released. The Sturgeon Heights Huskies have just made history!
We lined up on the attack line of the volleyball court, accepted our gold, provincial champion medals, All-Star Awards, and M.V.P. awards. Then the greatest thing that any athlete would dream about, we had the privilege of doing…
I've watched in college basketball, after the biggest tournament in the world, the winning team, each player, takes the scissors, steps his/her way up the ladder, and cuts off his/her own piece of mesh. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world, the best thing that a young athlete could do. After the game there were pictures being taken for hours. Hugs were given from all the fans, parents, friends, previous husky players, and everyone else who supported us.
There are several kinds of tears that a human can shed: tears of sadness, tears of pain, and tears of regret. Some kinds of tears that no one ever wishes to shed. Then there is the kind that was dripping down the cheeks of more than just the team and coaches that special Monday night. Drops of celebration from generations and generations of huskies stained the hardwood floor. The type of tears that are always welcomed. Tears of joy.