BARRHEAD – The Neerlandia Public Christian School (NPCS) Eagles Grade 8-9 girls’ basketball team defeated Yellowhead Koinonia Christian School from Edson in a 37-32 nailbiter in the finals of the 1J Zone Championship hosted at Neerlandia on March 4.
Excluding the year that was taken off due to COVID, coach Brett Seatter said this would mark their third straight zone championship, as they previously won the title in 2020 and 2022.
In addition to NPCS and Yellowhead, the 1J Zones were also attended by Thorhild Central School, Eleanor Hall School from Clyde and Pembina North Community School from Dapp, which went on to win bronze.
NPCS qualified for the finals after some pretty decisive victories, but they knew their match against Yellowhead would be tough based on how they played in the semi-final against Pembina North.
“They had numerous girls who could shoot from anywhere and they played really well as a team. This was the first time we saw them all year, so it was interesting to see them play,” Seatter said.
Nevertheless, he said the finals had a really fun atmosphere as the gym was packed with spectators.
Neerlandia got out to a good start, gaining a 10-0 lead, but Edson eventually rallied and closed the Eagles’ lead to 12-5 by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Yellowhead carried the momentum, closing the gap even further to 19-15 at halftime. Amaya Seatter and Kirsten Strydhorst did a lot of the heavy lifting in the first half, with Amaya scoring seven points on her own.
Seatter said he was feeling nervous going into the second half, as Edson had outscored Neerlandia 15-9 after their 10-0 start and were looking “really comfortable and really strong” as the action got underway once again.
He said he started the third quarter by putting more Grade 8s on the court to give some of Neerlandia’s starters a rest. That second unit “came out flying and really took over the game for us,” he said, adding that Strydhorst and Kate Olthuis led the charge.
“That unit played so well that after about four minutes had gone by, the one ref said, ‘Wow did your team ever come out swinging in this second half’ as he ran by the bench,” Seatter said.
Yellowhead was not completely done, as a couple of their players managed to sink several long baskets to get them back into the game. After three quarters, the score was 33-26.
In the fourth quarter, the NPCS Eagles keyed in on Edson’s two best shooters and were able to hang on for the 37-32 victory.
While Strydhorst was the ultimately the top scorer, contributing 14 points for her team, Seatter also singled out Sydnie Elzinga, who nabbed more than 15 rebounds for Neerlandia.
“She gave a gigantic effort on rebounds and defence to really help us win that game. I was super proud of her as she had battled injuries all season and she gave us her all in the final,” he said.