SUMMERSIDE – A December tradition returns to Three Oaks Senior High School after a one-year hiatus.
The 24th edition of the Christmas Classic, which is sponsored by the Holland Hurricanes, begins on Thursday evening.
Last year’s tournament was cancelled due to labour issues with Nova Scotia teachers, which prevented that province’s teams from attending.
“We are excited to be back and ready to go this year,” said Three Oaks athletic director Joel Arsenault. “We have a good field of eight teams.
“It’s one of the things that is part of the tradition around here.”
For eight members of the host Three Oaks Axemen, this will mark their first experience playing in a Christmas Classic, which attracts senior AAA boys-calibre basketball teams from across the Maritimes. Grade 11 centre Cameron Wall of Summerside is one of them.
“I’m super excited to play in front of the school, and excited to have a lot of fans in the stands,” said Wall, 17. “It is exciting to get the opportunity to play teams from away.”
Axemen senior point guard Logan Cameron of Wellington will play in his second Christmas Classic after representing the Summerside high school in his Grade 10 year.
“It’s quite the experience,” noted Cameron, 17. “It’s going to be a first-time experience for a lot of the team.”
The teams are divided into a pair of four-team pools, and will play a round-robin schedule. The first-place squads will qualify for Saturday afternoon’s championship game.
“You have to start off on a high note,” said Cameron. “The way the Classic works is to get to the final you have to win every game.”
The Axemen, who sport an 8-2 (won-lost) overall record this season, open against the Bluefield Bobcats in an all-P.E.I. clash on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Three Oaks plays twice on Friday – against St. Malachy’s from Saint John, N.B., at 2:15 p.m., and Amherst, N.S., at 8:15 p.m.
“We have to be able to play the game our way, and not let other teams dictate the play,” said Wall. “We have to talk on defence, and be able to score.”
Wall, who is looking forward to facing the out-of-province teams, discussed some adjustments the Axemen may face against teams they are not accustomed to playing.
“We have to learn how the better teams pressure us,” continued Wall. “We have to be able to able to play through the present, and play at the high intensity needed to win these tournaments.”
When asked to describe the 2017-18 edition of the senior AAA Axemen, Wall replied: “We have a big team, but we are young; half the team is in Grade 10. We just have to play our game, and control the tempo.”
The Christmas Classic traditionally attracts strong fan support, including a number of alumni.
“It’s fun to play in front of your fellow students,” added Cameron. “You can expect to see lots of people come out.
“You will see some good style of basketball being played.”
Wall added, “It will be high-paced basketball, smart basketball and a very intense environment.”
At A Glance
A look at the 2017 Christmas Classic:
(Site in parenthesis)
Thursday, Dec. 14
5:30 p.m. – Three Oaks vs. Bluefield (Three Oaks).
7 p.m. – Colonel Gray vs. Charlottetown Rural (Charlottetown Rural).
Friday, Dec. 15
12:30 p.m. – Colonel Gray vs. Fredericton High (Three Oaks).
2:15 p.m. – Three Oaks vs. St. Malachy’s (Three Oaks); Amherst vs. Bluefield (Athena).
4 p.m. – Charlottetown Rural vs. Fredericton High (Three Oaks); Colonel Gray vs. Dartmouth (Athena).
5:40 p.m. – Star Shooting and Three-Point Contest (Three Oaks).
6:30 p.m. – Bluefield vs. St. Malachy’s (Three Oaks).
7:15 p.m. – Charlottetown Rural vs. Dartmouth (Athena).
8:15 p.m. – Three Oaks vs. Amherst (Three Oaks).
Saturday, Dec. 16
8:45 a.m. – Amherst vs. St. Malachy’s (Three Oaks); Dartmouth vs. Fredericton High (Athena).
10:45 a.m. – Third-place team in Red Pool vs. third-place team in Green Pool (Athena).
12:30 p.m. – Second-place team in Red Pool vs. third-place team in Green Pool (Three Oaks).
2:15 p.m. – Championship game: First-place team in Red Pool vs. first-place team in Green Pool (Three Oaks).
Host Three Oaks Axemen roster:
4. Logan Cameron, Grade 12.
5. Vlersim Musliu, Grade 10.
6. Charlie Turner, Grade 10.
7. Ethan Boyd, Grade 12.
8. Sahib Singh, Grade 10.
9. Brett Aitken, Grade 12.
10. Rilind Musliu, Grade 12.
11. Justin Caron, Grade 10.
12. Spencer Haakman, Grade 11.
13. Cam Wall, Grade 11.
14. Blake MacKinnon, Grade 10.
15. Ben MacDougall, Grade 10.
Coaches: Faro Halupa, Brett Montgomery, Mark Matheson and Chris Richard.