Walking into Barrier Secondary School was like walking into an alternate reality of our own barn. Two giant murals of cougars watched us pass through the front doors of the school and even more cougar images crowded the walls and the floor of the school gym. The senior boys basketball tournament draw pitted the Nakusp Cougars against the Barrier Cougars in the first round of the robin, and upon learning this Kodi Bowman tried to reassure his nervous looking team.
“Well, the good news is that no matter what, Cougars are going to win this one,” he said.
Nakusp put on their game faces as they lined up against Barrier but several spastic mistakes in the first few minutes of the fray revealed an inner battle that had to be rectified. The nerves were calmed after Kodi Bowman broke the goose egg with a netted foul shot and once Nakusp was up on the board the boys settled into a solid attack which focused on playing low, taking every advantage to disrupt passing lanes and causing turnovers. Like Kong being swarmed with fighter plans, the Barrier Cougars were confused and taken aback by the tenacity of the Nakusp boys in blue and the score was kept close at 24-27 at the sound of the half.
Realizing that a Cougar is an even match for a Cougar the Barrier team switched tactics and abandoned their hopes of stacking the score with three pointers and moved their star players into a post position under the basket.
The shots for Barrier climbed from 32 in the first half to 50 in the second half, and inevitably the score added up in their favour. Nakusp tried to battle back from the deficit, with Kodi Bowman and Zach Friedenberger trying their best to find ways through the maze of gangly limbs, but a lower shot production found Nakusp on the losing side of 61-53.
Being able to look their opponents in the eyes was a confidence booster, and Nakusp proceeded to fall into a successful rhythm of their team assets. The Talons gave Nakusp some trouble in the first quarter as the Cougars struggled to move the ball effectively between the small lanes in the offensive zone, but the Cougars collective athleticism and teamwork found buckets from almost every member and the Cougars enjoyed a comfortable 63-31 win.
Nakusp found themselves in a battle for third against the Mustang’s, a very tight squad from Hope. Man for man the two teams were evenly matched, each boasting the ability to move the ball, drive to the basket and deliver the rock from the three point arc.
The game was a brutal run for Nakusp as the consent rotation of fresh legs from the Mustang’s wore down our significantly smaller bench. The lead was traded back and forth for three quarters, but the fourth found the Cougars on their last legs. Tired, the boys found it difficult to finish their plays and as a result the score crept slowly away from them. Brier McLean tried to keep a positive mood and after netting a foul shot he turned to our bench and boasted a “100 per cent foul shot percentage” with a grin. The final at the buzzer was a disheartening 56-48, which placed the Cougars fourth in the tournament, but the developing teamwork and the experience gained makes the Nakusp squad an exciting future prospect.