Central Alberta is set to play host to a pair of high school provincials championships this weekend.
Starting Thursday at St. Joseph High School, the Tier I Alberta Schools Athletic Association Handball Championships get underway and Friday the Tier II tournament starts in Lacombe.
Representing Central Alberta on the boys side in Tier I play are the four-time zone champion Notre Dame Cougars. They’ll be in tough against some strong competition from Edmonton and Calgary, but coach Dale Henderson thinks his group is ready.
“Really excited. Our guys have played really good handball this year,” he said.
“Competed with the Edmonton teams really well. All the teams coming to provincials, we’ve played most of them and we’ve had very competitive games with everybody.”
Henderson added those trips to provincials in the past few years helped and he believes with this group there are a few differences this time around.
“I think we have a good mix of experience and youth. Our depth is solid enough that we should have a good chance to compete,” he said.
“We’ve always had solid defensive teams. Our offence, that’s the one area where the Edmonton teams are a little bit ahead of us. We need to be able to be more consistent on offence.”
The Notre Dame girls are also competing at provincials again and hit the floor for their first game at 9 a.m. Friday against Salisbury.
For the host school despite home court advantage, there is a lot to learn. Falcons coach Darcy McQuillan said they’re excited to host, but he understands that for a second-year school, there will be some bumps along the road.
“They’re all definitely learning. Half the boys and girls team are rookies,” McQuillan said.
“We’ve got kids that have a steep learning curve but we did put on a tournament here a couple of weekends ago and they did see most of these teams so they know there’s going to be some stiff competition. We’re hoping they rise to the challenge and put in a good effort.”
Either way, it is an exciting opportunity for the school to show off the Kinsmen Fieldhouse, which is home to one of the only full-size handball courts in Central Alberta.
“We’ve got one of the largest courts in Alberta. Full-sized 40 meters by 20 metres, so it’s kinda nice to be able to show that facility off,” McQuillan added.
As host, they will take on Harry Ainlay on the boys side and Lillian Osborne on the girls Friday, starting at 10:20 and 11:40 a.m. respectively.
Action continues throughout the day Friday and into Saturday. Finals will be played Saturday night, with the girls game at 7 p.m. and the boys game to follow.
On the boys side, Harry Ainlay, Bishop O’Byrne, St. Joseph, Lillian Osborne, St. Peter the Apostle and Notre Dame will compete. On the girls side, Salisbury, Lillian Osborne, St. Peter the Apostle, along with the two Central Alberta entries in Notre Dame and St. Joseph will compete.
Tier II provincials will be hosted by the Bentley Panthers in Lacombe. Play starts Friday at Lacombe Composite High School, with the Panthers boys and girls competing, as well as the Central Alberta Christian High School Knights. The girls gold medal game is Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at LCHS and the boys final is at 5:45 p.m.
For further schedule details check out www.asaa.ca/championships/list/team-handball.