The Yorkton Regional High School Raiders senior boys basketball team is headed to Saskatoon for 4A Hoopla this upcoming weekend after winning regionals in their own backyard on Saturday, March 16.
"Making Hoopla is a pretty big accomplishment," said Raiders head coach Jason Payne. "Only four teams make it. So it's not easy."
The Raiders clinched their ticket to The Bridge City with one of their best performances of the year, beating Weyburn 71-55.
"It was probably our second best game (of the year)," said point guard Daniel Mandziuk. "We played tough, physical, and knocked shots down."
Payne felt his squad's experience was the biggest reason for their victory.
"I think the big difference in the game was that we had grade 12s and they had grade 11s," said Payne on the Weyburn win. "And grade 12s see the writing on the wall, they know this could have been it. And I think the big thing with grade 12s is that they've seen everything. So they were able to handle some foul trouble and handle a defence they've never seen before."
There were several star performances from the Raiders' bench, but Mandziuk, Ben Redl, and David Kaunhofen especially turned heads.
"He was huge," said Payne on Mandziuk. "He's a problem every team has to deal with. He played fantastic today. He takes control of the game. He sets the tone for a team offensively and defensively."
Mandziuk especially turned heads when he sunk two three pointers in the final quarter.
"I was just trying to make a play, shot it, and they went down," said Mandziuk on his three-point markers.
Redl made several vital baskets and was a workhorse in his own end.
"He has been good for us all year and today was no exception," said Payne. "He had a really good game. He made some key rebounds."
Kauenhofen had a monster fourth quarter, potting eight points.
"David had some nerves in the first half and settled down," said Payne on Kauenhofen. "That's what grade 12s do, they step up and do their jobs because they know how to do it."
For the grade 12 ballers such as Redl and Mandziuk, the Hoopla clinching victory was their last high school game in their own gym.
"Last home game, couldn't have asked for a better game," said Redl. "I've had a lot of great memories in this gym."
"It feels great," added Mandziuk. "You always want to end your last year going as far as you can."
Before squaring off against Weyburn, the Raiders dominated Humboldt 97-34 in their first regionals' match.
"We played well," said Payne on the Humboldt win. "I think they were a little overwhelmed by seeing where they were at."
It goes without saying that the Raiders' best players will have to be at the top of their game to find success at Hoopla. But against the top of the 4A league, it seems it will take a lot more than a couple star performances to be crowned the province's best.
"Every team knows that we have Ben and Daniel," said Payne. "So when other guys step like they did today (Saturday), it makes a huge difference. We need that in Hoopla."
No. 1 seeded St. Mary's is the Raiders' first opponent in Hoopla. It will be a tough match, but win or lose, the Yorkton Regional ballers have a lot to be proud of this year.
"We'll have to beat St. Mary's, who have beaten us four times this year," said Payne. "We can do that. But we'll be satisfied with whatever the outcome is."