Vikings claim bronze at Hoopla

The Walter W. Brown High (Langham) Vikings are provincial bronze medalists. Members of the team include: (l-r) Back row; Katie LaRoche, Katelyn Strumecki, Chloe Brown, Hannah McDonald, Taylor Don, Abby Milne, and coach Michael Neufeld. Front row; Britney Epp, Paige Downing, Tiana Downing, Rachel Neufeld and Kaitlyn Waldner.

The Walter W. Brown High (Langham) Vikings senior girls basketball team earned provincial bronze in the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) 1A Girls Division after defeating the Southey Screaming Eagles 73-57 at Hoopla, on March 23 at Walter Murray Collegiate.

After a tough loss to the Gladmar Falcons in the provincial semifinal the Vikings rebounded with a emphatic win in the bronze medal game.

“It feels fantastic,” said Vikings head coach Michael Neufeld. “I started coaching these girls in Grade 4. We’ve faced injuries and adversity, and getting here has been a dream, and a medal today is a dream come true.”

In the bronze medal game, both teams were trading baskets for the majority of the first quarter. However, late in the quarter the Vikings started to pull away, and Langham led 20-13 going into the second quarter.

Langham continued to drain open shots and capitalized on its fast break opportunities and the Vikings built a 39-22 lead by halftime.

“There are so many weapons on this team. There are so many different things they can do when they all got their own skill set, and they feed off each other,” Neufeld said.

Langham didn’t look back in the second half. Along with the great offensive play, the Vikings stepped up defensively and didn’t allow Southey to gain any traction.

The bronze medal win capped off a successful run for Langham, as the Vikings finished the season with 30 wins and only three losses.

“Two of those losses during the regular season was a tournament where we only had seven regular players (due to injuries). So it’s been a phenomenal season, they’re such a great group of girls.”

Paige Downing of the Langham Vikings shows determination to get past the Gladmar Falcons defender during a game at Hoopla

Last season, the Vikings came up just short of qualifying for Hoopla after dropping a decision in the regional final. This season, Neufeld had a pretty good feeling that Hoopla was a realistic goal after the Vikings defeated Gladmar at a tournament in Coronach, and when Langham earned a big win over St. Brieux at a tournament in Indian Head.

“When we beat both of those teams which are incredible teams, we knew at that point we were there and we were going to get ourselves a good ranking, and then hopefully host a regional tournament,” Neufeld said.

Langham was successful during the regional tournament it hosted, after Fillmore really pushed the Vikings to the limit during the regional final, according to Neufeld.

Langham’s first game at Hoopla resulted in a 56-47 loss to Gladmar, a team the Vikings beat during the regular season. But Neufeld was impressed with how his team put that loss behind them and took care of business the next game, to earn a medal at Hoopla.

Throughout the season, Neufeld said there were a lot of fans that traveled to most of the tournaments the Vikings competed in, and he was appreciative of that support.

“No matter where we went, we always had fans, even when we drove to Coronach,” he said. “Everybody’s been behind the girls win or lose. We happened to win a lot, but they (the fans) would’ve been there if we lost too.”

It was no different at Hoopla as there was a lot of the Vikings faithful to see their team pull out a bronze medal win.

Hannah McDonald of the Langham Vikings splits the Gladmar defenders
Chloe Brown of the Langham Vikings protects the ball from the Southey player during the 1A girls bronze medal game at Hoopla
Kaitlyn Waldner of the Langham Vikings battles for possession of the ball
Tiana Downing of the Langham Vikings rips the ball away from Gladmar’s Jolynn Hlavka
Rachel Neufeld of the Langham Vikings tracks down the ball
Abby Milne of the Langham Vikings is contested by Southy’s Chantel McKinstry