Sackville – The St. Stephen Mini Spartans boys basketball team are provincial champions after an undefeated run in Basketball New Brunswick’s Under 12 Division 5 provincial tournament.
Hosted in Sackville this past weekend, the Mini Spartans played four games in the five team provincial tournament.
Starting the tournament with a 46- 39 victory over River Valley, the Mini Spartans later rolled over their Bath opponent in game two with a 52-36 win.
In game three, the Mini Spartans finished with another strong result, claiming a 72-36 win over Riverview.
The toughest game for the Mini Spartans, said coach Andrew Atkinson, was the final game with Sackville.
Down eight points before the half, the squad recovered those points to close the gap in scoring, entering halftime tied 21-21.
At halftime, Atkinson encouraged his players to stop the Sackville shooters, and praised the team for buying into his systems.
“We ended up switching shifts (in the second half). We ran a three quarter floor press, and we tried to stop their shooters.
“I told them to stop their guards from getting the ball to their shooter, so we just tried to keep them out of the key and it ended up working for us. That’s what we talked about at halftime.”
The Mini Spartans edged Sackville 51-47 for the championship victory – avenging last year’s silver finish in the provincial tournament (the team fell by six points to Woodstock in the final).
It is the second provincial banner win under the direction of Atkinson.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the gym,” Atkinson laughed. “There wasn’t – the parents, the children, they were so overwhelmed. I don’t even think half of them remember winning, I really don’t,” Atkinson added, again with a laugh.
“We trained all year just for this provincial tournament. They knew what was coming; the boys worked very, very hard. They didn’t miss a beat for all four games pretty much – they were right on target.”
Atkinson said of the 11 players on the roster, seven were returning this year (with two of those seven playing for Atkinson since he began coaching the team three years ago). Those seven players are due to move on to the middle school next year.