To say the Brit high school basketball tournament has come of age is a huge understatement.
The 50th annual event opens 2;30 Thursday afternoon with the host Bedford Road Redhawks against defending champion St. Francis Xavier from Edmonton.
Tournament chair Nicole Poier said the annual 12-team event was established many years ago as one of Canada’s premier high school basketball tournaments.
“This is what it has been for 50-years,” said Poier who pointed out the tournament’s reputation is the reason recruiting teams has been easy.
“It just gets better and better as we go and it’s something we haven’t had to work really hard at to get the name out there, it’s something that just happens.”
Poier pointed out Brit has been a 50-year-staple of the Saskatoon basketball scene which brings alumni from all over the country on an annual basis.
“I think this is why I put so much time and effort into this,” said Poier.
“I see them coming back and I see how important it is to them and it just makes me want to do this tournament justice for them.”
Kelly Bowers has been another tournament mainstay as an official. He has vivid memories of the very first Brit.
“It seems like it was just five years ago, the gym was all decorated, the place was packed, it was 20-below, but it’s amazing 50-years have passed and the tournament is bigger, better, and the same it is every year, just fantastic.”
Bowers who will officiate the third-place game on Saturday along with fellow 50-year Brit veteran official Butch Steponchev, said the quality and speed of play improved as the game evolved.
“Back in the day the ball came up the floor very slowly’” said Bowers who called the addition of the shot clock a tremendous step forward, along with other rule changes.
“There was no three-point line, you weren’t allowed to dunk, the rules have changed so much over the years,” said Bowers who added the players have improved dramatically while adapting to the new rules.
“The players are so skilled, they play all summer, they play all year round, there is so much club basketball as well, so the game is so exciting.”
Holy Cross, Marion Graham, and St. Joseph round out the rest of the Saskatoon teams in the field, with others from B.C, Winnipeg, Quebec, along with Notre Dame from Ottawa who will be making its Brit debut.
Three days of elite high school basketball wraps up on Saturday.