Merle Saari (12) soared through the air as he tried to increase his Bentley Panthers’ lead over Notre Dame High School of Bonnyville.

Merle Saari (12) soared through the air as he tried to increase his Bentley Panthers’ lead over Notre Dame High School of Bonnyville.

Panthers faced strong competition at handball provincials

Strong competition created a challenging weekend for Bentley Panthers handball teams, who participated

Strong competition created a challenging weekend for Bentley Panthers handball teams, who participated in Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association Team Handball Tier II provincial championships in Sylvan Lake last weekend.

“The whole tournament was very close,” said Stephen Lush, tournament chair and coach of Bentley Panthers boys and girls teams.

The female Panthers lost their first game and went the rest of the tournament undefeated, while the boys won their first game, and lost their remaining three — each by one goal.

“That’s how tough the competition was and how close it was,” said Lush.

Old Scona Academic High School of Edmonton defeated Mayerthorpe High School to win the boys championship, while Blessed Sacrament School of Wainwright defeated Calgary’s Clear Water Academy to win the girls championship.

Bentley School hosted the tournament, which began with a banquet last Thursday night. Games were held Friday and Saturday at École Fox Run School and École H. J. Cody School in Sylvan Lake.

From an organizational perspective, Lush, who’s also assistant principal of Bentley School, couldn’t be happier with the way things went.

“It was phenomenal,” he said. “The parents, the students and everybody did a first-class job through everything. All we heard were positive comments on everything that happened throughout the weekend.”

Sylvan Lake was chosen as the destination for the tournament due to suitability of the gyms at the two school gyms for handball.

Lush said he’s grateful to everyone in town who made the tournament possible.

While he admits organizing it was “a lot of work”, he feels it benefitted everyone involved.

“It put our community on the map, and let everybody know what types of stuff we do,” he said. “It was well worth it.”

As has been typical in previous years, Eckville Junior Senior High School players made up part of the Panthers’ rosters.

Natalie Mattson represented Eckville on the girls team, while Brian Castro, Wyatt Fleming, Merle Saari and Grayson Shuflita all turned out for the boys.

Other teams participating in the tournament included Bearspaw Christian School of Calgary, Bonnyville Centralized High School, Central High Sedgewick Public School, Master’s College of Calgary, Notre Dame High School of Bonnyville and Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy of Canmore.