WESTLOCK — Zach Basisty’s lacrosse career has hit unimaginable heights as the 19-year-old Westlock native recently competed in the Minto Cup finals and has started his NCAA career south of the border.
The Junior ‘A’ lacrosse player recently finished his second season with the Edmonton Miners of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League and helped them make a run at the 2022 Minto Cup Aug. 22-29 in Brampton, Ont. Despite a determined effort, the Miners fell just short of the national title, losing 6-5 to the Whitby Warriors Aug. 29.
The very next day Basisty was on a plane to Mercer University in Macon, Georgia where he will study and play field lacrosse with the Mercer Bears for the next four years. He is the first player from northern Alberta to play NCAA Division 1 men’s field lacrosse.
“I couldn’t be happier. I’m blessed to have this opportunity, especially coming from a smaller town in Alberta where it’s hard to be recruited down here,” said Basisty. “I got to take this all in and realize why I’m here. I just got to keep believing in myself and hopefully take the next couple of steps forward … (and) over the next four years improve my lacrosse game enough to get drafted into the National Lacrosse League (NLL).”
The Minto Cup run
This year was the very first time an Alberta lacrosse team had ever competed in the Minto Cup final.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted but we can still hold our heads high with how we represented the province, how each of us made a name for ourselves and everyone around us supporting us the whole way,” said Basisty. “Everyone doubted us throughout the whole year and in many other years they doubted the province of Alberta — everyone besides all the boys in the locker room. We all believed…. we want to win the Minto Cup.”
Edmonton last competed in the Minto Cup in 2009 as the Eclipse. This season, the Miners lead the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League and took the league title after sweeping the Saskatchewan SWAT 4-0 and beating the Calgary Mountaineers 4-1 in the best-of-seven league finals to earn a spot at the Minto Cup.
“We lost the first game then won the next four and that gave us the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League title, the championship,” he said, noting that four teams compete for the Minto Cup each year. One from each British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario with an extra team from the host province. This year teams from Edmonton, Victoria, Whitby and Beaches (Toronto) competed for the national championship.
The road to the Minto Cup final was a challenge for the Miners, which began with back-to-back losses in round-robin play, including an 11-9 loss in overtime to the Whitby Warriors Aug. 22, and a 9-8 loss to the Toronto Beaches Aug. 23. Facing a must win situation in game three, the Miners beat Victoria 10-8 Aug. 24, moving them onto the semifinals against the Toronto Beaches, which Edmonton won with a decisive 20-12 victory on Aug. 25.
“That was the biggest scoring difference in the whole Minto Cup this year,” said Basisty. “That punched our ticket to the final.”
The Edmonton Miners faced off against the Whitby Warriors in the best of three Minto Cup final Aug. 27. Whitby took a 1-0 series lead with a 12-8 win over Edmonton in Game 1 and looked poised to take the Minto Cup in two games before Game 2 went to overtime and the Miners tied the series 1-1 with a in a thrilling 9-8 victory in the extra frame.
Basisty said they battled through adversity, stayed calm and focused during the championships. “The job wasn’t finished after we won the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League,” he said, noting the team’s hard work each and every game. “The first game of the final was a (bit of) a shock because we did have the momentum, but we weren’t down … in Game 2 we believed, and we knew why we were there and what we had to do there so everyone dug deep, just played the game and listened to the coach.
“Win or lose (Game 2) we were going to be happy with how we played,” he said.
His team’s confidence helped settle nerves and prepare for Game 3, the biggest game of their lives.
“I personally took a deep breath two minutes before game time, walked up to centre floor and looked around and thought whatever happens today, we did this,” said Basisty. “This is great for the sport, it’s great for the province, it’s great for all the kids coming up under us. I wanted to embrace the moment and take in the whole experience — there’s some guys that play all five years of junior lacrosse and never get to experience that. I was grateful for that.”
The Minto Cup comes to Alberta next year, noted Basisty, adding it will be a special experience if the Miners can win the title on home court as he plans to return to the club for next season.
Getting to the Minto Cup final took a full team effort from goaltending to offence and was only possible with the support from Westlock and Edmonton communities, team staff and family, especially the club’s training staff, support staff and coaching staff, including head coach John Lintz and offensive coach Richard Lachlan. He was also very appreciative for the guidance and support from Westlock Minor Lacrosse coaches over the years, his parents Dan and Lisa and for the Hardinge family in Westlock, who proved to be a positive influence in his younger playing days.
“We’re close family friends with them and they got me started in lacrosse. Both of their boys, Eric and Adam (Hardinge) played lacrosse and they were my role models growing up,” said Basisty. “A big thanks goes to my parents for giving me the opportunity and getting me to where I am today.”
From Westlock to Georgia
Basisty began playing lacrosse at the age of four and now at 6’2”, 195 lbs., the offensive player, who was drafted by the Edmonton Miners in 2019, shows no signs of slowing down. He plays with a physical edge and a skill level beyond his years, which has earned him not one but two scholarships —an academic and an athletic scholarship to Mercer University, where he will study business and commerce for the next four years while playing lacrosse.
He has been acclimatizing to his new surroundings and acquainting himself with the school and new teammates on the Bears. Basisty said he has high hopes for his first season in the NCAA.
“I’ve got to know the boys over the past two weeks … so we’re starting to get to know everybody, it’s a great group of guys,” said Basisty, noting a new coach and an additional defensive coordinator with the Bears. “Everyone seems bought in and ready to expand the identity of Mercer lacrosse and maybe win the conference this year and go to the national championship tournament.”
Kristine Jean, TownandCountryToday.com