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A TOSH tradition: Longtime coach reflects on history of Sweetheart tournament in Summerside

Three Oaks Axewomen head coach Garth Turtle, left, and Three Oaks Senior High School athletic director Joel Arsenault display the championship banner up for grabs at this weekend’s 38th Sweetheart senior girls’ basketball tournament. Play begins Friday evening, and the championship game is Saturday at 3 p.m.
Three Oaks Axewomen head coach Garth Turtle, left, and Three Oaks Senior High School athletic director Joel Arsenault display the championship banner up for grabs at this weekend’s 38th Sweetheart senior girls’ basketball tournament. Play begins Friday evening, and the championship game is Saturday at 3 p.m. - Jason Simmonds
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

The Sweetheart basketball tournament at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside is steeped in tradition.

No one understands that more than Garth Turtle. The now-retired Summerside resident, who served as a teacher and athletic director at Three Oaks and executive director of the P.E.I. School Athletic Association, will coach the host Three Oaks Axewomen in the 38th senior girls’ tournament this weekend.

“Glenn Edison was the athletic director, and I was working as a physical education teacher (at Three Oaks), and we decided we needed to get a good tournament that would be one of the better ones in the Maritimes,” said Turtle in recalling the birth of the tournament.

“The original design was to make this as good as any tournament in the Maritimes. For a number of years it was. Then it kind of evolved into a tournament that all the teams that come have a chance to win. We invited good teams, but we tried to make it as even as we could so every team came in and there were no blowouts. . . That is our philosophy right now actually. It’s not necessarily the best tournament in the Atlantic provinces, but it’s as competitive as any.

“We do a lot of research around the teams that are coming, who is competitive and who is not.”

Turtle acknowledged that when he first started coaching back in the early 1980s that it was “probably more important to win this tournament” than the provincial championship.

“That philosophy has changed a lot,” he said. “I like the tournament because we bring in teams that are a little better than us potentially, we have to work hard, but if we work hard and play well we have a chance to win this tournament.”


Host Three Oaks Axewomen’s roster:

  • 4. Lauren Lilly, Grade 11.
  • 5. Kassidy Bernard, Grade 10.
  • 6. Jill Power, Grade 10.
  • 8. Jane Doyle, Grade 11.
  • 9. Megan MacDonald, Grade 10.
  • 10. Jordan Power, Grade 12.
  • 11. Megan Mann, Grade 12.
  • 12. Paige Campbell, Grade 12.
  • 13. Jordyn Connell, Grade 12.
  • 14. Amber Dyer, Grade 11.
  • 15. Emily McKenna, Grade 10.
  • Head Coach — Garth Turtle.
  • Assistant Coaches — Jason Woods, Sean MacDonald

Opening game

The host Axewomen open against Avon View from Windsor, N.S., on Friday at 5:30 p.m., and the tournament format dictates every game is a must-win situation.

“You have to win that first game,” said Turtle. “You can’t afford to lose a game because if you lose a game you go into the consolation bracket, and you can’t get back in (on the championship side).

“That’s a unique format for tournaments in the Maritimes, you just don’t see that. Everybody gets three games regardless, and we try to set it up so if teams are from the same league they would never be playing each other at the start.”

Three Oaks post player Jordan Power is looking forward to playing in her second Sweetheart tournament after the 2018 event was reduced to a one-day event after a snowstorm wiped out Day 1.

“I’m excited because this year because we get a chance to actually have the full tournament experience,” said Power, a Grade 12 student from Summerside. “We are getting better as a team, and I think we have a chance to do well.”

Power says the players like the opportunity to face new opposition.

“It gives us more opportunity to see different types of skill and different ways teams play,” added the 17-year-old, who also welcomes the challenge of having to win every game.

“It will get us motivated because it’s our own tournament, and we obviously want to win it,” continued Power.

“That is our philosophy right now ... It’s not necessarily the best tournament in the Atlantic provinces, but it’s as competitive as any. We do a lot of research around the teams that are coming, who is competitive and who is not.”
-Three Oaks head coach Garth Turtle

Season to date

The Axewomen, who are 6-0 in PEISAA league play, have had an up-and-down season, noted Turtle. He added the team won its first five league games, then went 0-9 in three tournaments before getting back on the winning track.

“If we play really good defence and keep the other team from scoring a lot we have a chance,” assessed Turtle. “We are not going to score a lot of points. Offensively, we are very challenged.”

Asked to describe this year’s edition of the Axewomen, Power offered, “We are a young team, but we are quick and our defence is really strong.”

This year’s eight-team field includes the Axewomen and Bluefield Bobcats from Hampshire along with three teams from New Brunswick and three teams from Nova Scotia. Although the level of play may not be what it once was, the Sweetheart is still a special event.

“It’s always a thrill for Three Oaks to play in this tournament,” said Turtle. “It’s a well-recognized tournament across the Maritimes, teams like coming here.

“The hospitality from the school is great, (athletic director) Joel (Arsenault) has done a great job as the host. It’s a great tournament for the mid-level teams in the Maritimes to come and play.

“We get pretty decent crowds, and people will enjoy it. You are going to get teams that work really hard, and high school basketball is always exciting. There is always something going to happen.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason
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Three Oaks Sweetheart tournament schedule:

Friday, Feb. 1

At Three Oaks:

5:30 p.m. – Game 1: Three Oaks vs. Avon View.

7:30 p.m. – Game 3: Leo Hayes vs. Bluefield.

At Athena Consolidated:

5:30 p.m. – Game 2: Amherst vs. James M. Hill.

7:30 p.m. – Game 4: North Nova vs. Tantramar.

Saturday, Feb. 2

At Three Oaks:

9 a.m. – Game 5: winner of Game 1 vs. winner of Game 2 (semifinal).

11 a.m. – Game 7: winner of Game 3 vs. winner of Game 4 (semifinal).

1 p.m. – Game  10: winner of Game 6 vs. winner of Game 8 (fifth-place game).

3 p.m. – Game 12 – winner of Game 5 vs. winner of Game 7 (championship game).

At Athena:

9 a.m. – Game 6: loser of Game 1 vs. loser of Game 2.

11 a.m. – Game 8: loser of Game 3 vs. loser of Game 4.

1 p.m. – Game 9: loser of Game 6 vs. loser of Game 8 (seventh-place game).

3 p.m. – Game 11: loser of Game 5 vs. loser of Game 7 (third-place game).

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