Hapnot came within minutes of its first provincial basketball title in 63 years, but the senior Kweens still ended the year with one of the school’s best finishes in decades.
The Kweens, who had a 25-0 unbeaten season before this year's provincial tournament, were ranked third in the province going into the tourney in Souris last weekend.
Hapnot's first matchup would be against the tournament hosts, the Souris Sabres, who entered the weekend as the seventh seed in the province. The Kweens opened up an early lead on the Sabres, with a Shanti Church three-pointer giving Hapnot a 10-point lead late in the first half. At half-time, Hapnot led 32-19. The Kweens could extend the lead further in the second half, coming away eventually with a 67-46 win and heading into the provincial semis.
In that semifinal, the Kweens would face - by seeding - their toughest test so far this season, the Prairie Mountain/Nellie McClung co-op Predators. The team, representing players from high schools in Somerset and Manitou, entered provincials as the second-ranked team in Manitoba.
The Kweens proved up to the task early, leading the Predators 29-19 at halftime, but the co-op team battled back to make it 42-34 Hapnot going into the fourth and made it closer late, going on a run that tied the game at 44 with less than two minutes remaining. The Predators took a lead with moments to go, sinking a free-throw to go up 45-44, but Katrina MacQuarrie hit a three-ball to restore the Hapnot lead moments later, followed by Kaitlyn Fieber forcing a turnover in transition and later hitting a mid-range jumper to make it a two-possession game.
A series of clutch free throws would expand Hapnot's lead and ice the win, going from a 45-44 late deficit to a 52-45 win.
The victory guaranteed the Kweens would be bringing back either a champion or a finalist banner. Which one they'd come home with would depend on their final foe - the Rosenort Redhawks. Hailing from just south of Winnipeg, the Redhawks entered this year's provincials as the top team in Manitoba and also had an undefeated season going in the final, winning six tournaments. The Kweens and Redhawks have not yet played each other this season - somebody’s “0” had to go, with a coveted provincial banner on the line.
Hapnot got out to an early first quarter lead, but Rosenort kept the game close - both teams were tied 16-16 after the first. The Kweens went on a run in the second and their defence held strong, forcing several key turnovers and climbing up to a 34-24 lead at half.
The Kweens looked primed to make school history, but Rosenort would not go away quietly. The Redhawks went on a run of their own to start the third quarter, bringing the game to 38-37 Hapnot at one point, but the Kweens would enter the fourth with a 46-40 lead.
Ten minutes away from glory, Hapnot would have to hold firm against Rosenort. The Redhawks took on a full court press to try and fight back, stuffing their key with players to cut off passes and rebounds and found success, taking a 49-48 lead from the Kweens with 6:15 to go.
The Kweens would never get any closer than that. Rosenort took over following the lead change and took advantage of both late foul shots and forced turnovers, handing Hapnot their first loss of the season - Rosenort 67, Hapnot 60.
Hapnot’s near-perfect season will go down as a 27-1 run, with each of those 27 wins coming consecutively from the beginning of the season to the victory against Prairie Mountain-Nellie McClung.
Both Church and Gianna Watt were named to the tournament all-star team. The second-place finish marks the end of five Kweens’ high school basketball careers - seniors Kara Burroughs, Chuch, Olivia Fernandes, MacQuarrie and Watt. The Kweens will be able to return nine players, all Grade 11 students, for next season.
The provincial finalist spot is still tied for the school’s highest finish at a provincial tournament in decades, not just in basketball but in any team sport. The senior basketball Kweens haven’t won a provincial title since 1960 and haven't finished as provincial finalists since 2018, when the Kweens lost to the Warren Wildcats in the finals.
According to the Manitoba High School Athletics Association (MHSAA), the school’s most recent provincial title in any team sport came in 1996, when Hapnot’s boys’ golf team won provincial gold.
The school’s athletics schedule will now turn to badminton and track and field. Provincial badminton championships will take place from May 4-6, while provincial track and field championships will be held June 8-10, the last event of its kind before students graduate. Manitoba high school baseball also hosts provincials in June, but Hapnot has not fielded a team in decades.