CHARLOTTETOWN – The Three Oaks Axemen set out some lofty goals going into this season, and the Summerside high school did not disappoint.
The Axemen capped an amazing season by winning back-to-back P.E.I. School Athletic Association/Domino’s Pizza Senior AAA Basketball League championships last week, defeating the Charlottetown Rural Raiders 91-71 in the gold-medal game at the UPEI Sports Centre.
“Rural played a good game,” said Faro Halupa, who just completed his fifth year as Axemen head coach. “They made us work for it, and just didn’t hand us the game. They scored early, tried to put a little bit of pressure on us right off the hop and I thought we responded to it.”
But, in the end, the Axemen, who featured four seniors and five Grade 11s, were just too strong.
“Our goal going into the year is to always win the provincial title,” said Halupa. “As a team, and as crazy as it sounds, we set out to not lose a game at all.
“You don’t go into many seasons thinking that, because you don’t really know who you are going to play. You don’t know when you show up to a tournament, what teams are going to be in those tournaments, especially when you go to a Coal Bowl. There are teams from all over Canada playing in it.
“Mentally, we believed that it was a possibility. We did lose a game early in the year to Horton, and as time went on I believe the boys started to feel the disappointment from that loss.
“They realized that if this ends up the way it’s going, that could be the only one (loss) we pick up all year.
“It was a big goal to shoot for, but I thought it was an attainable goal.”
The lone loss to Horton came in the Colonel Gray tournament.
The Axemen will graduate four provincial all-stars – post Alec Parise, post Lucas Coughlin, guard Dylan Gallant and post Mark Matheson, who was named the provincial championship tournament most valuable player for the second year in a row.
“Mark, Alec and Dylan were all first-team all-stars, and Lucas was a second-team all-star,” explained Halupa. “It’s a big loss, but what we’ve been doing over the last five years is building towards a higher standard for Three Oaks basketball.
“When I came, I think we were 10 years between provincial titles until last year, and this is two in a row. The goal is to win provincials, but it goes beyond that.
“Counting provincials, basically we won five tournaments this year. Last year, we won four, the year before that we won three, the year before that we won two, the year before that we won one. You can’t sustain this kind of success year after year.
“The overall big success of winning all the tournaments is tough to do. It does take special teams to win at this rate because you are playing so many other good teams. But the standard has been set and it’s something other kids, as they come in and even our Grade 10s who were here this year, are going to have to understand the expectations are growing.”