The final home game of the regular season was also, unfortunately the final home game of 2008-2009 for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Buttons celebrating Brendin Huculak and Karla Binder for passing the century mark in ACAC regular season games played as a Viking and a cake cutting between games were only some of the festivities that marked the evening. Farewell ceremonies for departing student-athletes from both teams also took place and, oh yeah, there was a game to be played as well. And what a game it was! Fans that paid for the entire seat should have asked for some money back, as they only used the edge of it for most of the game. The capacity crowd was treated to a fast-paced and thrilling exhibition of ACAC basketball at its very finest. The teams played to a 40-40 draw at the halftime break. The action didn’t stop there as the Camrose Spirals Skipping Club kept the crowd in an upbeat and raucous fervour, just waiting for the action to continue.
The third quarter saw the Rustlers take a 10 point lead into the break. Lakeland seemed to have victory hog-tied as they stretched the lead to 15 points early in the fourth. But on senior night anything is possible; the energy in the gym was absolutely electric as the Vikings began their assault on victory village. In what would be a true nail biter of a finish, the Vikings found themselves with the ball, a 2 point deficit, and 5 seconds to change the world. On a clever set piece from a sideline inbound situation, the pressure fell to (as it has so many times in his career as a Viking) i.d. apparel player of the game and graduating senior Brendin Huculak. Brendin’s shot hurtled through the air as the crowd held their breath and the Rustlers shook their heads in bitter dismay as this game came down to one final shot. It was, however, the Rustlers that would celebrate the sweet taste of victory on this night as the ball bounced cruelly away from the goal. The Vikings were left to find solace in the feeling of a battle hard fought and in the adulation of the crowd (as the standing ovation showering the teams expressed the fans’ appreciation for the night’s efforts). Second-year forward Joe Knight continued to lead the Vikings in double-doubles with 22 points and 12 rebounds to go with three more blocked shots and two assists. Mike McCorquindale had 15 points and four rebounds. Alex Butts and David Chytracek had 10 points each, with Butts collecting nine rebounds as well. Guard Kevin Barnes had 10 assists and three rebounds to keep the good ship Vikings on course. Huculak finished his last career home game with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, and a blocked shot in the 89-87 game.
In Saturday’s rematch in Lloyminster, the Vikings had a tough time recovering from the emotion of Friday night’s game and even more difficulty shaking off the bus lag. They found themselves facing a 28 point halftime deficit. But in these tough times, “deficit” is just another word for challenge and the Vikings are always up for a challenge. By the end of the third quarter, the Vikings had taken back 10 of the points they spotted the hosts and were looking for more gains. All but one Viking in uniform contributed to the scoring, led by second-year forward Ryan Larsen with 21 points (along with a team high seven rebounds) and second-year guard David Chytracek with 14. First-year forward Shayn Bruney and Mike McCorquindale each had eight points and combined for seven rebounds. The final score ended up 90-75 for the Rustlers, who are building momentum for the playoffs. The Vikings will wrap up the season with two games in Grande Prairie this weekend.