SPRINGDALE, NL — Heading into their first tournament, there wasn’t much to warrant big expectations from the Indian River High boys basketball team following the early season of practice and a pair of exhibition games.
But although the boys experienced the expected ups and downs, they ended up bringing home the championship banner from the Venture Credit Union Classic at J.M. Olds Collegiate in Twillingate last weekend.
“My take on this tournament was that it was a warm-up for the rest of the year,” said head coach Andrew Bursey. “My goal was to go in and get at least one win and play as well as we possibly could. If we made the final, great.”
Bursey, who experienced a self-evaluated rejuvenation of the program last year, entered the 2017-2018 season staring at the loss of the team’s offensive star, Brandon Clarke, and the graduation of seven Grade 12 players in total.
Lack of leadership and experience on the Springdale team was evident as the rebuild began, with four new players earning roster spots.
Role players or those who suited up but didn’t contribute much last year would be relied upon as major pieces this season. A blowout loss to the Exploits Valley High team out of Grand Falls-Windsor earlier this year and a loss to its own school’s alumni team near the holiday break showed the process would not be easy.
However, Bursey had the team in the gym nearly twice every week since September to work out the kinks and travelled to Twillingate for their first tournament last weekend.
The coach believed the tournament would bring the team together, to have players learn to play in their new roles and for new teammates to acclimate to the system. It would be an exhibition in all senses of the word, but Bursey hoped the boys would find a way to be competitive in the four-team tournament.
Game 1: Lewisporte B 60, Indian River High 53
Tyler Clarke scored 19 points for Indian River High in the loss, while Joshua Northcotte added 18.
Game 2: Indian River High 75, J.M. Olds Collegiate 34
Northcotte scored 22 in the win, while teammate Kyle Tuck contributed 16 points.
Game 3: Indian River High 57, New World Island 48
Northcotte again led the way in scoring with 25 points, while Clarke chipped in with 16 points and 23 rebounds.
New World Island and Indian River High would play off again for the championship as the top two teams following a three-way tiebreaker on points for and against.
Championship: Indian River High 66, New World Island 54
Clarke led the way in the final with 31 points and 16 rebounds, while Tuck came through again with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
Bursey said his team fell behind by as many as 24 points in the first half and trailed by 20 points at halftime after scoring only 17 points.
They changed up their defence in the second half by going to a full-court press and then hit their stride, riding the momentum to the championship win.
Bursey said the key to the tournament win was a balanced effort in scoring and rebounding, and an overall commitment to defence.
“I am really impressed and really happy with what I have seen so far out of the boys,” he said. “I think the boys have really bought into the notion that it has to be a team effort if we are going to succeed this year.”
The team will continue to practice in the coming weeks leading into this year’s Baie Verte Invitational scheduled for Feb. 23-25.